Friday, 18 January 2019

Leek & Dried Tomato Salad

Mr Ferdzy and my mother and I, and his two brothers and their partners, all headed off to St. Lucia for a week in December. We were celebrating 60th, 55th, and 50th birthdays, and a 30 year and a 20 year anniversary, all of which fell sometime in 2018. We had a lovely time hanging about on the beach and eating like racehorses. The food was excellent, but very little of it would translate to here as what was especially good was the fruit. St Lucia was beautiful and once I got over it not being Cuba, I liked it very much and would love to go back. The climate was much more moderate than I expected but I found I got sun-burnt very easily.

We were served a simple little salad of cold cooked leeks and dried tomatoes, which I thought was very nice. I've added a touch of sweetness with the apple butter but otherwise this is as basic a salad as you can find. Both main ingredients have an intensity that makes this almost relish-like, so expect people to eat fairly small portions.

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time plus some cooling time

Leek & Dried Tomato Salad

Cook the Vegetables
2 medium-large leeks
1/3 cup dried tomatoes

Put a pot of water on to boil, sufficient to hold the vegetables.

Trim, slice, and wash the leeks. Cut the dried tomatoes into pieces if they are large.

When the water boils, drop both of them in and boil for 6 to 8 minutes until the leeks are just tender. Drain well, and allow them to cool. 

Make the Dressing:
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon apple butter
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1/8 teaspoon hot red chile flakes
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil

In a small bowl or jam jar, mix the mustard and apple butter. Grind the fennel seeds and add them, along with the chile flakes. Mix in the vinegar and oil.

Toss the leeks and tomatoes in the dressing. Serve at room temperature. The salad may be dressed a bit in advance.

Last year at this time I made Carrot, Apple, & Belgian Endive Salad

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Oppose Bill 66

I have received a few reminders this week that the window is closing to object to the execrable Bill 66 put forth by the Ford government. This link from EFAO is succinct and has several possibilities for response. Please go and make a comment on the official site, and sign a petition or two. If you can get your friends and relations to do likewise, so much the better.

There are only 3 days left - comments close Jan 20th.

Help Protect Ontario's Farmland

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Polish Dill Pickle Soup

Yes, I said soup. With milk in it, even. I admit to having a prejudice against milk with pickles - I even know from whence it came; see L. M. Montgomery's The Story Girl - but in fact they work very well together, at least in this soup. These are, do I have to say, Dill Pickles by the Jar, but good purchased non-pasteurized (refrigerated) dill pickles will do in a pinch.

If you don't have any parsnips and don't want to buy a bag just to get one little one, you can lean more heavily on the carrot instead. (But go for it - then you'll have parsnips and parsnips are great.)

If you add the pickles and brine sooner, the soup will be more mellow. If you add them right towards the end, it will be much pickle-ier. It's your choice. You could also be indecisive and add some earlier and some later to steer a very pleasant middle course.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Polish Dill Pickle Soup

3 cups (500 grams; 1 pound) diced potatoes
1 medium carrot
1 small parsnip
3 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup finely diced dill pickles
1/3 cup dill pickle brine
1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
2/3 cup milk or sour cream
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash, trim, and dice the potatoes. Peel and grate or finely dice the carrot and parsnip. Put them in a heavy-bottomed soup pot with the stock and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, and boil for 15 minutes until the potatoes are very tender.

Meanwhile, peel and mince the garlic. Melt the butter in your smallest pan and cook the garlic gently in it until just showing signs of turning colour. Transfer butter and garlic to the soup pot at once.

When the potatoes are tender (or sooner; see the note above) add the dill pickles to the soup. Measure the brine and mix in the starch. Mix well into the soup.

Just before serving, stir in the milk or sour cream (I used a mixture of both and recommend it) and season generously with coarsely ground black pepper. The soup should be served steaming hot but do not let it simmer (or boil) or it will curdle. 

Last year at this time I made Chicken in Goat Cheese, Mushroom, & Dried Tomato Sauce.

Monday, 14 January 2019

One-Pot Mashed Parsnips & Pears

Parsnips with pears is a very classic combination. I will cheerfully concede that parsnips are better roasted than boiled, but I wanted the have this dish on the table and I wanted it, if not "now", then at least "30 minutes from now" and that meant boiling. By allowing the cooking water to evaporate and the parsnips to brown in the remaining butter I did get some of the benefits that roasting would have provided.

This is a very sweet vegetable dish and best served with roast pork or turkey, in my opinion. I also think that means the pepper should be applied with a particularly generous hand. I served it with cabbage and frozen snow peas cooked in a skillet; when the vegetables were turned out for serving I put in a thin layer of oil and fried up slices of peameal bacon. They cook so fast they were ready by the time everything else was on the table.

Pears can be hard to find, and by now the only ones available will be Bosc. They do very well in this dish so no worries.

4 servings
20 to 30 minutes prep time

One-Pot Mashed Parsnips & Pears

450 grams (1 pound) parsnips
1 cup water
2 medium Bosc pears
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 or 2 pods green cardamom
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
the juice of 1/2 small lemon

Peel the parsnips and slice them fairly thinly. Put them in a pot with the water and bring them to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes or so, until they begin to be tender when poked with a fork. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile peel, core, and chop the pears. Add them, with the butter to the parsnips. Crush the cardamom and discard the papery green hull, then grind the seeds and add them. Grate in the ginger and season with salt and pepper - be generous with the pepper.

Continue cooking and stirring more frequently as the water evaporates and the parsnips and pears begin to cook in the butter. Cook for another 5 to 15 minutes until the parsnips are very tender and ideally a bit browned. Mash the parsnips and pears, and mix in the lemon juice. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Leek & Carrot Soup.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Chinese Chile-Garlic Noodles & Greens

Here's a quick and easy dish that can be made all year, using whatever green vegetables are available. Various Chinese mustard greens would be very appropriate, but already it is cabbage and carrot time.

Rooster brand noodles are the ones I use and even my small stodgy local grocery store has them, so they should be readily available.

Make these as spicy (or not) as you like, although the bite of almost-raw garlic and chile is the point of this. It can be adjusted a bit, though. Some chopped peanuts scattered over the top would not go amiss, if you had them and wanted them.  

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Chinese Chile-Garlic Noodles & Greens

Cook the Noodles & Vegetables:
3 cups finely chopped greens
1 small carrot, grated
4 or 5 cloves of garlic
1 green onion, chopped fine
200 grams Chinese style wheat noodles (Rooster)

Set a pot of water large enough to hold the greens and the noodles - which will expand quite a lot - on to boil. Add a pinch of salt.

Wash and trim the greens, and chop them fairly finely. Peel and grate the carrot, and set them aside with the cabbage. Peel and mince the garlic. Wash, trim, and chop the green onion finely. Set those 2 items aside together.

When the water boils, add the greens and carrots, and the noodles as soon as the water comes back to a boil. Boil for 5 or 6 minutes until the noodles are tender. Drain very well and divide the noodles and vegetables between 2 large bowls. Meanwhile, everything else should be standing by, including the green onions and garlic...

Make the Sauce:
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Measure them out into a little bowl.

Standing By:
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot red chile flakes
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Measure the oil and chile flakes into a very small skillet. When the noodles have about 2 minutes more to cook, heat the oil until the chile flakes sizzle. You can add some portion of the minced garlic if you think it will be too strong if all of it is raw.

Sprinkle the chopped green onions and raw minced garlic evenly over the 2 bowls of noodles. Divide the sauce between the 2 bowls. Add the sesame oil to the hot oil and chile flakes, and divide it evenly over the 2 bowls of noodles. Give each bowl a little toss and stir at once.

Last year at this time I made Beef Stuffed Onions in Barbecue Sauce.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Chicken, Leeks, & Mushrooms with Potato Dumplings

I can't say this was glamorous, but it was certainly very tasty. How could it not be, with all those good things in it? I'd rate this as sufficiently comfort food for family, and rich enough for company.

It doesn't really need anything else to make it a complete meal, although I'd be tempted to add some frozen peas on the side and maybe a little rice. An Apple Crisp, Apple Snow, or something similar would make a good dessert to follow up.

3 or 4 servings
1 hour - 40 minutes prep time

Chicken, Leeks, & Mushrooms with Potato Dumplings

Make the Stew:
4 large (900 grams; 2 pounds) chicken thighs
225 grams (1/2 pound) lean bacon
3 medium leeks
225 grams (1/2 pound) button mushrooms
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons soft unbleached flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup light cream or sour cream

Cut the bones out of the chicken thighs, and cut each thigh into 3 or 4 pieces. Chop the bacon into 1" long pieces. Put them both in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat and cook, turning occasionally, until they have rendered enough fat to coat the bottom of the pan well.

Meanwhile, clean and trim the leeks, and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Clean and trim the mushrooms, and slice them. Add these to the pot with the meat and stir well to coat them in the fat. Add the bay leaves, thyme or savory, and salt and pepper.

When the leeks and mushrooms are softened and cooked down, sprinkle them with the flour. Mix it in well and cook for another few minutes, then mix in the chicken stock. Mix well, being sure nothing is sticking to the pan, and let simmer gently as you make the dumplings.

The cream goes in after the dumplings are cooked...

Make the Dumplings:
3 medium (300 grams; 10 ounces) potatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 cup soft unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup buttermilk

Meanwhile as you make the stew, wash the potatoes and put them in a small pot with water to cover. Bring them to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Rinse them in cold water until you can handle them, then grate them into a mixing bowl - most of the skin will come off and you should discard it.

Mix in the salt, pepper, and egg. The potato may be sticky, so mix thoroughly and carefully. Measure the flour and mix the baking powder into it. Mix it into the potatoes until it gets too stiff to stir easily, then mix in the buttermilk.

Drop the batter in 6 or 8 dumplings into the pan, not touching each other if at all possible. Cover the pan and reduce the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir the cream in around the dumplings, then leave the pot on the stove just long enough for the stew to reheat through. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Chickpea & Cabbage Salad with Tahini-Za'atar Dressing.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Baked Apples Stuffed with Mincemeat

Got some leftover mincemeat? Here's a good way to use it up. Really, I'm embarrassed to call this a recipe but not embarrassed enough not to post it.

I used Cortland apples and I forgot to cut that little strip around the equator with the result that at least 2 of my apples split open. It ain't too serious; they could just look a little neater. These were greeted with great enthusiasm, even by Mr. Ferdzy who is not the world's biggest mincemeat fan.

We're off to Mississauga today for an assessment on Mom's third operation on her first eye. If all is well, maybe they can start to think about the first - and oh how I hope, only - operation on her second eye. 

1 apple is 1 serving
50 minutes - 10 to 15 minutes prep time

3 Baked Apples Stuffed with Mincemeat

All Amounts Are Per Serving:
1 medium-large baking apple
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons liquid - juice, rum, or water and honey
about 1/3 cup mincemeat

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cut the cores out of however many apples you plan to bake, and peel off a thin strip around the equator. Use apples which will soften up nicely while baking, such as Cortland, Empire, Gala, Mutsu, Northern Spy, etc.

Put them in a preferably fairly snug baking dish with the butter and juice or other liquid under them. Use apple juice, orange juice, or a mixture of rum or sherry with a little water and honey - just a little bit will do.

Fill the apples with the mincemeat. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until soft.  Serve with cream, custard, ice cream, or just the baking liquid poured over them.

Last year at this time I made Apple Praline Cake - a much more effortful endeavor but also cake, so there's that.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Cabbage, Quinoa, & Bacon Salad

It's amazing what a little bacon will do to liven up a bunch of healthy ingredients. A lot of bacon will do even more. But I malign the parts of this salad that are not bacon; they are really very tasty too. You would think with all the shredded cabbage and grated carrot it would be a bit cole-slaw like, but with the quinoa and bacon it really isn't. This was greeted with enthusiasm and disappeared in a flash.

I am saying 4 to 6 servings, which assumes it is a side salad. It is a very substantial one though, and it will not do badly as a meal in itself. Even there, it may stretch to 4 servings.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time not including cooking the quinoa

Cabbage, Quinoa, & Bacon Salad

Cook the Quinoa:
3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
a pinch of salt

Put them in the good old rice cooker; turn it on; cook. I am not even giving you any other instructions at this point because oh, come on. Let cool. Break it up into your salad bowl. This can be done up to a day in advance.

Prepare the Vegetables:
1 large carrot, grated
2 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1 cup finely shredded green cabbage

Peel and grate the carrot. Wash, trim, and shred the cabbages. Add them to the salad bowl, and toss. 

Cook the Bacon & Onion, & Finish:
1 large onion
250 grams (1/2 pound) bacon
the juice of 1/2 large lemon
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel and chop the onion.

Chop the bacon and put it into a skillet to cook over medium heat. Once it has cooked about halfway, drain off excess fat - and you would have to have very fatty bacon for that to happen, because you want to leave about 3 tablespoons worth in the pan as it becomes the fat for the salad dressing. Add the onions and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are done and the bacon is fairly crisp.

Meanwhile, juice the lemon and pick out any seeds. You might as well leave the lemon juice right in the juicer, and add the balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and mustard. Give it a good but careful stir.

Season the bacon and onions with salt and pepper. Generously with the pepper, the salt very dependent upon how salty is the bacon. Pour the lemon juice etc over the bacon and mix in well, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour it all over the salad - you will want to scrape out the pan with a spatula, in fact - and toss it in. There we go.

Last year at this time it was Coconut Creamed Cabbage, oh huh.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Turkish Leek Cake

We saw the biggest, fattest leeks I've ever seen when we were in Turkey, and they were everywhere and got put into everything. This kind of savory vegetable cake seems to be pretty typical too. I threw in some mushrooms just because they needed using up, but I thought they went really well and I recommend putting them in.

Serve this cake for breakfast, brunch, or as a combination vegetable and starch side dish with dinner. Serve it for lunch with a bowl of soup or a salad. Leftovers should keep, well covered, in the fridge for a couple of days.

6 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Turkish Leek Cake

3 large leeks
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
4 to 6 large button mushrooms (optional)
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper
3 large eggs
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1 cup soft unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Wash and trim the leeks. Cut them into 1/4" slices, rinse them well again, and drain thoroughly. Peel and mince the garlic. Clean, trim, and chop the mushrooms.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil and flour a 10" pie plate; you may wish to line the bottom with parchment paper.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened and reduced in volume. Don't let them brown. When they are done, add the garlic, stir in well, then remove the pan from the heat after about a minute.

Meanwhile, break the eggs into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the oil and the milk. Measure the flour and stir the baking powder into it.

Stir the flour into the wet ingredients until just lump-free. Stir in the vegetables, and scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, until firm and very lightly browned. Best served somewhere between warm and room temperature.

Last year at this time I made Squash, Leek, & Goat Cheese Galette.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Oyster Mushroom Chowder with Saffron

The portions this makes are fairly small ones, as this soup is both rich and fancy enough to be part of a special meal. You could lighten it a bit, I suppose, by cutting back on the butter and using 2% milk but it was so good as it was.

I don't know that oyster mushrooms taste like oysters, particularly, but in a soup like this there is some resemblance of texture. The soup was a sweet and succulent as any seafood version of chowder I have had, but if you use vegetable stock it could be vegetarian.

And now another year is coming to an end... see you next year, and let's hope it's a better one all around!

4 servings
45 minutes prep time

Oyster Mushroom Chowder

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/8 teaspoon saffron
1 medium carrot
2 medium potatoes
125 grams (1/4 pound) oyster mushrooms
125 grams (1/4 pound button mushrooms
1 clove of garlic
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon corn starch or arrowroot

Measure the milk and rub the saffron between your fingers, breaking it up into it. Set it aside to soak.

Peel and grate or very finely dice the carrot. Peel and trim the potatoes, and cut them into small dice. Trim and chop both the mushrooms. Peel and mince the garlic and put it in a small bowl with the salt, pepper, and thyme.

Heat the butter in a heavy bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the potatoes and carrot when melted, and cook slowly for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are showing slight signs of browning. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and seasoning and mix in and cook for another minute.

Mix the cornstarch into the (cold) chicken stock well and add it to the soup pot. Mix  it well into the vegetables and let the soup simmer for 10 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. Stir occasionally.

Add the milk and saffron, and let the soup sit for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve the soup when it is steaming hot, but do not let it boil once the milk has been added.

Last year at this time I made Stewed Chicken with Chorizo, Beans, & Leeks.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Oslo Kringle

Oh look! It's that time of the year again already. In a couple of days we'll be packing up the car to head down to Windsor for our family Christmas celebrations. That means I'll probably be back just in time to post one more thing before we head into the New Year. I hope everyone has a good holiday!

I'll leave you with this quick and easy pastry. It's essentially a flattened, unfilled cream puff with a glaze on top, made in imitation of the more complicated puff-pastry (Danish pastry; wienerbrød) kringles popular in Denmark and Norway. It's very tasty in its own right, and would make a great addition to a fancy breakfast or tray of dessert pastries. Gotta admit, we just snarfed it down.

8 to 12 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Oslo Kringle Pastry

Make the Kringle:
1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup soft unbleached flour
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Put the water, butter, and salt into a heavy-bottomed pot. It should be reasonably large, as the eggs and the beaters of an electric mixer are going in there. Bring to a boil and boil until the butter is melted.

When the butter is melted, add all the flour at once and stir rapidly and continuously with a large wooden spoon, until the mixture comes together in a smooth ball. Remove it from the heat at once and let it cool for 10 minutes.

Break in the eggs and beat them in until smooth, one at a time. Spread the batter out on the prepared baking tray in 2 long lines, about 2" wide. Press them down a bit and smooth them out so that they are about 1" thick, and about 3" wide now. Bake them for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffed, brown and fairly firm. Remove them from the oven and turn the oven off. Prick them all over with a fork and return them quickly to the turned-off oven for another half hour until fairly cool.

Ice the Kringle:
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons light cream
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract OR rum
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and toast them, stirring frequently, until lightly browned. Turn them out onto a plate to cool.

Sift the icing sugar into a small mixing bowl. Add the cream, almond extract, vanilla extract or rum, and the lemon zest and stir to form a smooth glaze.

Drizzle the glaze evenly over the two cooled kringles, and sprinkle the almonds equally over them as well. Cut into thin strips to serve.

Last year at this time I made Clementine, Pomegranate & Red Cabbage Salad.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Curried Parsnips Roasted with Apples & Shallots

One of my favourite soups of any season is Curried Roasted Parsnip & Apple Soup. Here are all those same ingredients and flavours in a simple side dish.

Serve this with chicken or pork, cooked simply, and a green salad or vegetable.

Of course, I am now using my own Madras Curry Powder as I am no longer able to find a decent brand available to buy. Fortunately it is easy to make and the leftovers will store quite well for a while.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Curried Parsnips Roasted with Apples & Shallots

3 or 4 large parsnips
2 medium apples
4 to 6 shallots
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Peel the parsnips, and cut them into 2" or slightly smaller strips. Peel and core the apples, and cut them into wedges. Peel and sliver the shallots.

Melt the butter in a shallow baking pan which will hold the above in a mostly single layer, and toss the parsnips, apples, and shallots in it. Sprinkle them with the curry powder and salt, and toss again.

Roast them for 1 hour at 375°F until tender. Serve at once. 

Last year at this time I made Brussels Sprouts "Spanako"pita.