Friday, 28 September 2018

Broccoli Cheddar Casserole

It is beginning to become clear to me that we have been eating too much cheese lately. Still, I regret nothing!

Well, a little bit. But it's hard to regret something as tasty and satisfying as this. It was also quick and easy to make, and pretty much a full meal in itself. We had it with just one of the last tomatoes from the garden and that was lovely. Also, for those who take note of such things, this is another entry into the list of things to do with stale bread.

6 servings

2 hours - 1 hour prep time

Broccoli Cheddar Casserole

1 bunch broccoli (2 or 3 heads)
1 large carrot
1 medium onion
125 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups 5% or 10% cream
3 large eggs
225 grams (1/2 pound) old Cheddar cheese
350 grams (12 ounces) stale, light bread
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Wash the broccoli, and cut the stems from the florets. Peel and grate the stems, and put them in a mixing bowl. Finely chop the florets and put them aside elsewhere.

Peel and grate the carrot. Peel and chop the onion. Add them to the grated broccoli stems. Clean and dice the mushrooms.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Add the broccoli stems, carrot, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened. Add the mushrooms and mix in well. Continue cooking and stirring until the vegetables are softened and reduced in volume. Season with the salt and pepper.

Mix in the flour and the mustard, until the flour is absorbed. Slowly mix in the cream, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Continue cooking and stirring until it thickens; about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture back to the mixing bowl.

Put the skillet back on the stove and add the broccoli florets and about a cup of water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is tender but still bright green; about 5 minutes. The water should be evaporated by that point.

Beat the eggs into the mixture in the bowl. Mix in the (drained if necessary) broccoli florets.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9" x 13" shallow baking (lasagne) pan. Cut the bread into dice and put it in the baking pan.

Grate the Cheddar cheese and fold about three-quarters of it into the contents of the mixing bowl. Pour it out over the bread cubes and mix gently. Spread it out evenly in the pan.

Sprinkle the remaining grated Cheddar and the Parmesan over the top of the casserole. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until firm and golden brown. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Turkish Tray Kebab.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Great Aunt Verna's Tomato Jam Pickle

Last call to finish up the tomatoes! With all the hot weather we've been having, we are rolling into the end of the season with more ripe ones than usual, but it seems very clear the weather is about to turn. 

I've posted at least one recipe that I can recall from Treasured Recipes of the Mount Family before; here's another. It was described as  "a definite family favourite", and when I mentioned to Mom that I had made some, she said "Oh, yeahhh! I remember that! Tomatoes with lots of sugar, right?" That about sums it up, I'm afraid, but all that sugar combined with the acid tang of tomatoes and vinegar and just a touch of spice is surprisingly compelling. I've actually reduced the sugar a bit from the original, but not by much, as that syrupy texture is an important part of this.

"Tomato Jam Pickle" is what Aunt Verna called this, and it's an accurate enough description, although I suppose I would have called it a chutney. Not a very complex one though. As such, serve it with cheese, eggs, cold cuts, or light meats like poultry or pork.

5 x 250 ml
2 hours prep time

2 kilos (4.5 pounds) ripe beefsteak or plum tomatoes
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white vinegar

Put a pot of water on to boil sufficient to blanche the tomatoes. Blanch them for 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer them to a pan of cold water. When they are cool enough, peel them and chop them quite coarsely. Put them in a maslin pan or other wide, deep pan with a heavy bottom. Add the sugar and simmer them for about 1 hour, stirring regularly.

Put the canning jars into the canner with water to cover them by at least one inch. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the vinegar and spices to the tomatoes. Continue simmering and stirring for another 45 minutes or so, until the jars have finished sterilizing. About 15 minutes or so before all is done, put the lids and rings into a pot with water to cover them and bring them to a boil. Boil for 1 minute.

Fill the jars with the jam pickle, and wipe the rims with a piece of paper towel dipped in the boiling water. Apply the lids, with the rims just firmly tightened. Return the jars to the canner of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes.

Remove them and let them cool completely. Test the seals, and label the jars. This will keep for up to a year in a cool, dark place.

Last year at this time I made Broccoli with Chile & Garlic and Grape, Arugula, & Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts.

Monday, 24 September 2018

The 4th Annual Watermelon Breeding Post

Time to assess this year in watermelons! As it should surprise no-one to hear, this was an excellent year for watermelons, mostly. It would have been nice to have had what rain we had earlier in the summer while the fruits were forming, rather than later when they were finishing ripening, but whatever. We had a few moments of fear and frustration in the beginning, when many of the seeds failed to germinate. We did a second planting but no further attempts at coaxing them to sprout. Do or die; that's the breeder's motto.

Consequently we got going with fewer plants in the beds than we had planned, but enough to go on with, as it happened. The ones that grew, grew. I'm going to spend less time describing individual watermelons than I have in past seasons, because I think this year has marked a turning point. We are still eliminating at least half the watermelons that we get from next years planting, but we are also seeing a consistency in quality that just didn't used to be there.

You can see the reports for 2015, 2016, and 2017 at the links. It is really encouraging to me to see how much the watermelons have improved over the last 4 years.

I'll start with the Golden Rind project (melons who's rinds turns yellow when they are ready to be picked).

GR02-0815 was the second watermelon we picked, but it would have been ripe at the same time as the first one. At just under a kilo, we would have liked it to be a little larger, but it was a decent size. We scored it a 7 for flavour; a fairly typical score this year and anything that scored lower is not going to make the cut next year. This one is in, though; decent flavour, earliness, adequate size.

This look - oval, with thin stripes, was one of three styles that seemed to predominate in the watermelons which turned yellow when ripe this year.

Here's how it looked when cut. Colour a little pale but okay, a reasonable number of reasonably sized seeds, rind a little thicker than I like but not too thick; again all good enough to go on with.

GR04-0820 shows the second distinctive style we were seeing in this patch. At over 1.5 kilos, it was a much better size than GR02-0815, and only a few days later. In spite of being a little watery (I believe it had just rained the day before we picked it) it scored an 8 for flavour. Most of the others of this type did not score so well. This one is definitely in for planting next year.

Dang! Forgot to photograph this one before we cut it. GR08-0820 was in many ways the best of the Golden Rind project this year. I consider the size (over 2.2 kilos) to be just about perfect, and it scored an 8 for flavour.

The colour is a little pale and the seeds, while small, seem a bit all over the place. However the good flavour and texture, combined with a nice thin rind, desirable size, and earliness (it may be melon number 8, but it was picked the same day as melon number 3, which is not shown as it was not a keeper) mean this is probably the top Golden Rind melon of the year. 

Or maybe this was the top Golden Rind watermelon of the year. GR12-0918 was a hair overripe, but sweet and tasty, rating a 7.5 for flavour. The rind was also thin, the seeds seemed a bit better organized, and the colour was a bit stronger. At 2.56 kilos it was the second largest of the year for this set. It was an example of the third style of watermelon in this group - neither quite round or quite oval, but somewhere in between, with little in the way of stripes. Most were much smaller, though.

There were a number of other Golden Rind watermelons besides these, but they were just not that different from those I have already shown. There were still quite a few melons which did not turn yellow when ripe, but most of them were later to ripen and not significantly better in quality than most of the yellow ones. Therefore, next year will be the first year for this project where we do not intend to plant ANY seeds from watermelons that did not turn yellow. This is a real and encouraging turning point. 

The other project, for orange-fleshed melons, also had the same frustrations starting out but went on to produce numerous, good quality melons, with more consistency than we have seen until now. In spite of how much larger these melons are in general, they are only a few days later to ripen.

This melon, PJ01-0818, scored a 7 for flavour - pretty typical, the lowest rating for this project this year was 6, and only one managed to score an 8 - and had a slightly pale colour but was within the acceptable range.

PJ03-0827 had a rather thick rind, but good colour and at 5.588 kilos was the largest of the year. Maybe a bit too large, but eh, I'll take it. It held well in the fridge too.

PJ04-0827 was a bit on the red size but again, acceptable as an orange melon, and scored an 8 for flavour in addition to having a nice thin rind. It could have held a bit better but still, it's in for next year.

PJ09-0904 had a thicker rind than I like, but good flavour (7) and excellent colour. It too is in.

There are still a few melons left to be picked in this batch but they have been considerably more consistent than the Golden Rind project, which in addition to more melons scoring 8, also had melons scoring as low as 2, so I am not expecting anything much different from what we have seen thus far.

Mr Ferdzy is chaffing at being restricted to these 2 watermelon projects, so this one may be dropped next year to give him more scope with other watermelons, but it remains to be decided. If we go ahead and replant them, I think we can hope for continuing progress next year.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Black Bean, Corn, & Tomatillo Soup

Things seem to be taking a turn towards the Mexican around here at the moment; I guess you can thank those Poblano peppers. Tomatillos too. Mr. Ferdzy always wants to grow some and I have so few ideas of what to do with them. However, here's one, and it went over very well.

Gotta admit I just used a can o' beans. I'm going to have to get cooking on all the ones in jars in the basement at some point though. 

4 servings
45 minutes prep time not including cooking the beans or corn

Black Bean, Corn, & Tomatillo Soup

2 cups cooked black beans OR 1 540 ml (19 oz) tin black beans
1 cob of corn
1 medium onion
1 medium Poblano or other frying pepper
300 grams (10 ounces) tomatillos (8 to 16 of them)
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil or bacon fat
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1/4 teaspoon more or less chipotle or similar ground hot chile
salt to taste
2 cups bean cooking water, vegetables stock, or chicken stock
the juice of 1 large lime
1 ripe medium avocado to garnish
chopped cilantro to garnish
sour cream to garnish

The beans and the corn must be cooked in advance. For the beans, 3/4 cup raw beans should give the right amount when cooked. Soak them in boiling water overnight, then bring to a boil and simmer until tender, stirring frequently. The corn should be husked and cooked in boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes until tender, then cooled under cold running water. This can be done the day ahead. You can avoid most of this by using a can of black beans.

Cut the cooked corn from the cob and set aside. Peel and finely chop the onion. Core and finely chop the pepper. Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash them, then chop them finely. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil or bacon fat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Grind the cumin seed and add it once the oil is hot; let it sizzle for a minute until aromatic. Add the hot chile and a bit of salt. Add the onion, pepper, and tomatillos, and cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until softened and reduced in volume. Slight browning is okay. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute more.

While they cook, mash half the beans. On a plate with a fork is the easiest way for this small quantity.

Add the cooking water or stock, as well as the beans, both mashed and unmashed, and the corn. Let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the lime juice and serve it with the garnishes - peel and dice the avocado; wash, dry and chop the cilantro; the sour cream just needs a spoon.

Last year at this time I made Bread Fritters.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Peach Custard Pie with Coconut Crumble Topping

It's getting pretty late in peach season, but on the other hand it is getting late enough that the idea of turning on the oven and baking a pie is feasible. And this is so good it would be worth turning on the oven for even in the heat of summer. 

There are a lot of stages to this, but none of them are difficult. You could bake the pie crust and make the custard the day before if that was useful, but don't put the custard in the crust until you are ready to proceed. If you wanted to emphasize the coconut you could also replace the milk with coconut milk. 

8 servings
2 hours - 50 minutes prep time, plus time to cool

Peach Custard Pie with Coconut Crumble Topping

Make the Pastry:
1 1/3 cup soft whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter or lard
3 to 4 tablespoons very cold water

Measure the flour into a small mixing bowl and stir in the salt. Cut in the butter or lard until the size of small peas, then stir in the water, one tablespoon at a time with a fork, until you can press the mixture together into a ball. It is better to work it a little to get it to form a ball than to add too much water, but nevertheless, work it as little as you can.

Form the dough into a ball, cover it, and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Roll the dough out on a floured board or sheet of parchment paper to fit a 10" pie plate. Transfer it to the pie plate and neaten up the edges and prick it all over with a fork. Bake at 375°F for 12 to 15 minutes, until firm and very lightly browned.

Make the Filling:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups light cream
1/4 cup soft unbleached flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 extra-large egg yolks
500 grams (1 generous pound) fresh peaches

Put the butter and cream into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts and the cream begins to steam - I give the butter a small head start before I add the cream.

While the butter and cream are getting acquainted, mix the flour, sugar, and salt in the top of a double boiler. Whisk in the egg yolks until the mixture is smooth - put the whites aside in a smallish mixing bowl for now.

When the cream and butter are steaming, let them cool for a few minutes. Begin to mix them into the egg yolk and sugar, a little at a time, whisking well to keep the mixture smooth. Continue adding and mixing until they are all well combined.

Heat the mixture over boiling water, whisking frequently at the beginning and constantly as the custard begins to thicken, until it is thick. Scrape it at once into the prepared pie crust and spread it out smoothly.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Peel the peaches, and cut them into 8 or 12 slices each. Arrange the slices in 2 circles pressed lightly into the custard. Bake the pie for 30 minutes.

Make the Topping:
3 extra-large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup coconut sugar or Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon soft unbleached flour
1 cup fine unsweetened dessicated coconut

Meanwhile, add the cream of tartar to the egg whites, and beat them until soft peaks form. Sprinkle the coconut sugar and flour over them and beat again, until stiff. Fold in the coconut.

When the pie has baked for half an hour, remove it from the oven and immediately spread the topping evenly over it. Return it to the oven and bake for another half hour.

Let the pie cool completely before cutting it.

Last year at this time I made Chicken with Roasted Grapes.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Fried Cauliflower with Mushroom & Onion Sauce

I am not quite sure this lived up to the vision I had of it, but it was eaten with considerable enthusiasm, so, okay? The cauliflower is a slightly more robust (and possible gluten-free) version of this Mexican Cauliflower, and I wanted a vegetarian sauce for it that wasn't based on cream or tomatoes; always a challenge. We had just eaten some Adobo Chicken a few days earlier, and those flavours suggested this sauce. Very simple too, which is always a bonus.

Next time I would like the onions much finer; I might even try grating them. Hopefully this would make a smoother sauce, which is more in line with what I was picturing. However, as noted, with some rice on the side this was all eaten very happily. 

4 servings
1 hour prep time

Fried Cauliflower with Mushroom & Onion Sauce

Make the Sauce:
2 medium onions
250 grams (1/2 pound) button mushrooms
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chick pea flour
1 cup cauliflower cooking water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel and dice the onions. Clean and chop the mushrooms. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a shallow, heavy-bottomed pot and add the onions, mushrooms, and bay leaves. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until the onions and mushrooms are softened and reduced in volume, with a few brown spots; about 5 to 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the chick pea flour over, and stir until it disappears. Add the chick pea cooking water, the soy sauce, the vinegar, and the ketchup. Season with the pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens; about another 10 minutes.

Make the Fried Cauliflower:
1 small head cauliflower
1 cup chick pea flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup cauliflower cooking water or a bit more
2 large eggs
mild vegetable oil to fry

Put a pot of water on to boil for the cauliflower. Trim the cauliflower and break it into florets. Cut large ones in half so that none of them are more than 1" thick. Cook it in the boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain well, but keep about 2 cups of the cooking water. This could be done up to a day ahead.

Put the chick pea flour, salt, and pepper into a shallow bowl. Mix in the cauliflower cooking water to form a smooth batter, then break in the eggs and whisk well until smooth again.

Put a large skillet on to heat over medium-high heat. Add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan generously. Dip the cauliflower florets into the batter to coat them well, then lay them in the pan. Do not crowd them. Fry them for just a minute or two per side, turning them so that they cook evenly. They should be fairly well browned and there should be no signs of raw batter. Remove them to a plate as they are done. If there is enough you may need to add more battered cauliflower florets to the pan to be cooked as a second batch. Add a little more oil too, if needed.

Last year at this time I made Spicy Fried Eggplant - Baingan (or Begun) Bhaja.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Alambre de Chuleta

As I looked around for recipes to use our Poblano peppers, alambres kept coming up. What, you may ask - I did -  is an "alambre"?

My conclusion (as Google translate was less than helpful) is that it is a kind of stir-fried hash. Google persisted in wanting to translate alambre de chuleta as "wire chop", which I guess is fair enough since alambre does mean wire, and chuleta means chop, as in pork chops. And yet: no. Nor should you confuse it with Alhambra, which is a very fine piece of historic Hispanic-Moorish architecture.

I am pretty sure that in this particular case alambre is a contraction of al hambre, meaning "to (or for) hunger". So this is a prescription for curing hungry people, in other words, and a very good one too. It's fast, it's easy, it's substantial, and it's tasty. All good!

These seem to be most generally dolloped into tortillas and served as tacos, but since I didn't have any tortillas (whaaah!) I just served it over some steamed rice, which is a perfectly typical Mexican way of doing it too. Also, while most recipes called for some or all of the peppers to be Poblanos, it seems to be made with whatever mild frying peppers are available, so feel free to do the same. Since this is essentially a stir-fry using more finely chopped than usual ingredients, you should be very sure to have everything prepared and standing by - and the table set - before ever you turn the stove on.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Alambre de Chuleta; a Mexican Pork and Pepper Hash

Prepare the Seasonings:
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
freshly ground black pepper to taste
salt to taste

Peel and mince the garlic, and put it in a small bowl. Grind the cumin seed and add it, along with salt and pepper to taste. The amount of salt will depend very much on the type of pork you are using. Set aside.

Make the Alambre:
1 medium Poblano chile (150 grams; 5 ounces)
1 medium orange or red pepper (150 grams; 5 ounces)
4 to 8 button mushrooms (150 grams; 5 ounces)
1 medium onion
4 slices of bacon (125 grams; 1/4 pound)
250 grams (1/2 pound) boneless pork chops, may be smoked 
100 grams (1/4 pound) grated cheese (see comments above)

Wash, core, and dice or cut in small strips the 2 peppers. Clean the mushrooms and cut in long pieces (cut in thick slices, rotate 45°, and slice again). Peel the onion and cut it in slivers.

Cut the bacon into squares. Cut the pork into 1/4" slices then chop up a bit. Grate the cheese and set it aside by itself.

Put a large skillet onto the stove over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until the bacon is partially cooked and has rendered enough fat to start adding other ingredients to cook in it. Turn the heat up to high and add both the peppers.

Cook the bacon and peppers, stirring frequently, until they soften and reduce a little in volume; 3 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and onions, and mix in well. When the mixture is sizzling again (just a minute or 2, one hopes) add the chopped pork. Continue cooking and stirring for another 5 minutes or so, until the pork is no longer letting off pink juices and, in fact, is done.

Add the garlic and other seasonings and mix in well, cooking for just another minute or two until well amalgamated. You can sprinkle the cheese over the mixture and allow it to melt for a minute or 2, then serve it directly from the pan. Or, transfer the mixture to a serving dish and sprinkle the cheese over it. You may wish to place it under the broiler for 4 or 5 minutes to melt the cheese well, but be careful then as the serving dish will be hot (and must be one that can take this treatment).

Serve with tortillas, as tacos, or serve over steamed rice.

Last year at this time I made Panzanella.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Monster Zucchini Lasagne

We've been pretty careful about checking the zucchini daily this summer, and so we haven't suffered from too many monster zucchini. Last week, though, we must have taken our eyes off the prize, because 3 of them rolled into the kitchen. This seems to be the time of year when you are most likely to see very large zucchini at the farmer's markets, so apparently we are not the only ones.

This is also the end of the zucchini. As usual, they are now robed from top to bottom in powdery mildew and we're done here. Hopefully there are still a few zucchini around from people who don't seem to be as hard-hit by the stuff as we are, but nevertheless, the end is nigh. Lots of butternut squash coming along though! 

6 to 8 servings
2 hours - 45  minutes prep time

Grated Zucchini Lasagne

Prepare the Vegetables:
900 grams (2 pounds) zucchini
1 medium-large carrot
1 medium-large onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Wash the zucchini, trim the blossom end, and grate coarsely. Wash, peel and coarsely grate the carrot. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the zucchini, carrot, and onion. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until wilted and reduced by half in volume. Add the garlic and cook for just a minute or so more. Remove from the stove and let cool slightly.

Prepare the Filling & Finish:
1/4 cup finely minced fresh mint
1/4 cup finely minced fresh dill
1/2 cup finely minced fresh parsley
450 grams (1 pound) ricotta cheese
3 extra-large eggs
200 grams (1/2 pound) mozzarella
100 grams (1/4 pound) feta cheese
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
9 to 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
3 or 4 salad sized tomatoes to garnish

While the vegetables cook, wash and mince the herbs and put them in a large mixing bowl. Add the ricotta cheese and break in the eggs. Mix until smoothly blended.

Grate or finely dice the mozzarella, and add it to the mixture. Crumble in the feta cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a large (9" x 13") lasagne pan.

Mix the vegetables into the cheese mixture.  Spread about 1/4 of the mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover this with 3 or 4 lasagna noodles in a single layer. Spread another 1/4 of the cheese and vegetable mixture over the noodles. Add another layer of noodles, 1/4 of the (original amount of) cheese and vegetable mixture over, add one final layer of noodles, and finish with the remainder of the cheese and vegetable mixture.

Slice the tomatoes and arrange them over the top of the lasagne. Bake for 1 hour at 350°F, until set and firm. Let cool for 10 or 15 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Plum & Blackberry Pie. 

Monday, 10 September 2018

Thai Basil Chicken

Last year I had a hankering for some Thai Basil Chicken, and since I can't imagine where I might buy the Thai basil around here, I decided the easiest thing was to grow my own. So we ordered some seeds, planted it out, and now it is large enough to harvest. Conveniently, we are also growing a plant of Thai orange chile peppers, and while they have not yet turned orange they are ripe enough to use.

Now that I've had some, I want some more! Fortunately I won't have to wait so long this time, as there is still some Thai basil in the garden. The peppers too; although next time I think I won't put in 3 of them. Even green they pack quite a punch, and I suspect most people will be happier with 1 or 2.

Like most stir-fries this cooks very quickly, in under 10 minutes. Therefore it is important to have everything ready to go before the pan is heated. If you serve this with rice - and I rather think you must - start it even before you begin to round up the other ingredients. 

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Thai Basil Chicken with rice

Make the Sauce:
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup unsalted chicken stock, or water
1 teaspoon arrowroot, potato starch, or cornstarch

Be sure the honey is runny enough to mix easily with the other ingredients. If it is not, put it in a small bowl and microwave until liquid. If it is, put it in a small bowl anyway.

Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, and chicken stock and mix well. Add the starch and mix until completely dissolved and lump-free. Set aside until needed.

Finish the Thai Basil Chicken:
1 bunch Thai basil (2 cups lightly packed prepared leaves)
1 small orange Doe Hill pepper OR 1/4 orange bell pepper
4 to 6 shallots
1 to 3 small hot Thai peppers
4 to 6 cloves of garlic

300 grams (10 ounces) skinless, boneless chicken pieces
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Wash the basil, and remove the leaves from the stems, discarding any tough stems (most of them) or damaged leaves. Drain well. 

Wash, core, and cut in thin slices the orange pepper. Peel and slice the shallots. Wash the small hot peppers and cut off the stem end. Chop very finely. Peel and mince the garlic, keeping it separate from the other ingredients.

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the oil in a mid to large sized skillet with high sides, over high heat. As soon as it is hot enough to smoke, add the sweet and hot peppers, and the shallot slices. Cook for a minute or two until softened, stirring frequently.

Add the garlic, and stir it in for just a minute until fragrant. Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring frequently, until they are well seared all over and no longer let off any pink juice; 3 to 5 minutes depending on size.

Stir up  the sauce well and pour it over the chicken, turning and stirring as it is added. As soon as it thickens - in under a minute - fold in the basil leaves until they are just wilted - again, in under a minute. Transfer to a serving dish and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Sweet Corn Hash, Mexican Flavours.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Cheesy Corn & Poblano Chile Pudding

And here they are! The first of the Poblano chiles, along with corn, cheese, and eggs. The cheese, milk, and eggs make this a main dish; all it needs is a green salad or steamed green vegetable to keep it company and dinner is ready. Actually, a nice selection of sliced heirloom tomatoes sounds like a good plan too.

You could broil or grill the pepper the day before, and the corn could be prepared then too. (*cough* leftover *cough*). 

It's still pretty hot, but I am happy we are starting to get some days when turning on the oven isn't a completely crazy idea.

4 servings
2 hours - 1 hour prep time

Cheesy Corn & Poblano Chile Pudding

Prepare the Poblanos and Corn:
4 Poblano (450 grams; 1 pound) chiles
4 cobs or corn

Wash the peppers and place them on a baking tray to fit under the broiler in the oven. Heat the broiler and broil them until the skins blisters and chars slightly. Turn the peppers so as to broil them as evenly as possible. When they are blistered and charred all over, cover them with a tea-towel and set them aside to cool.

Put a pot of water on to boil the corn. Husk the corn and remove the silks. Boil them until tender; 6 to 8 minutes. Rinse in cold water then drain and let them cool. 

Make the Pudding:
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
125 grams (1/4 pound) old Cheddar cheese

Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk them. Whisk in the milk, cornmeal, flour, and salt.

Pull the stems and seeds from the peppers. Peel off the skins. Cut them in half and rinse them in cool water to remove any lingering seeds or skin. Dice them finely; a little larger than the kernels of corn. Add them to the eggs, milk, etc.

Cut the corn from the cobs and scrape the cobs. Add the scrapings to the mixing bowl. Break up the kernels of corn so that they are not in big clumps. Add the to the mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter in a shallow 2 quart baking (lasagne) pan. Swirl it around to cover the bottom and sides of the pan, and dump any extra into the batter.

Grate the cheese, and mix all but a handful into the batter. Scrape it into the prepared pan and spread it out. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the top. Bake the casserole for about 1 hour at 350°F until firm and lightly browned. Let rest for 10 or 15 minutes before serving it.

Last year at this time I wrote about Pickled Sweet Spanish Onions.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Tender Pan-Fried Eggplant

This Turkish method for frying eggplant is a little picky compared to the usual slapping it in the pan, but I think it has some definite advantages. The par-boiling means that the eggplant will be very soft and tender, and it is also not quite the sponge for oil that it is when it goes into the pan raw. Overall I don't think the 2 cookings take longer than frying from raw either.

I did both cookings together, one after the other, and that was fine. Still, I want to try par-boiling the eggplant ahead of time, and just doing the dipping and frying part during the heat of the dinner battle.

I also think that I would like to try it with the slices dipped in breadcrumbs and finely grated Parmesan. I wonder how they would do laid on an oiled baking sheet and baked... lots to think about here.

The boiled eggplant became tender very quickly; about 5 minutes for me. Do watch it carefully, as if you boil it too long I am quite certain it will fall apart. It should just pierce nicely with a fork. I actually peeled the eggplant after I had boiled it, and while it worked quite well I could see that the eggplant could easily become too fragile for that to be a practical goal, so I suggest you peel it while it is raw.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Tender Pan-Fried Eggplant

1 medium (250 grams; 1/2 pound) eggplant
1 large egg
1/2 cup chick pea flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
seasoning to taste - black pepper, red pepper OR paprika;
             - rubbed oregano, basil, rosemary OR thyme
mild vegetable oil to fry

Put a large pot of water on to boil; you are going to boil the eggplant. As it comes to the boil, salt it generously, as you would for pasta. A tablespoon of salt is by no means too much.

Peel the eggplant. Cut the eggplant into quarters lengthwise if it is thin enough; otherwise cut it into slices. The pieces should ideally be a slightly generous half-inch thick.

When the water boils, put the pieces in and boil until tender. This should be about 5 minutes. They will want to float, so occasionally turn them about to make sure they cook evenly.

Drain them well.

Break the egg into a shallow bowl and beat well with 1 tablespoon of water.

Sift the chick pea flour into another shallow bowl and mix with the salt and whatever other seasonings you like - about a teaspoon of most dried herbs, although I would use a fair bit less if it was rosemary.

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with about 1/4" of oil, and heat over medium-high heat. While it heats, dip the eggplant pieces thoroughly in the egg, then roll them through the chick pea flour. Lay them in the hot pan to cook. They will cook quite quickly; 4 or 5 minutes per side should be enough.

Lift out and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Melon, Cucumber, & Feta Salad.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Poblano Chiles

Poblano Chiles and one orange Doe Hill pepper

I have been able to find Poblano chiles occasionally even in my very stodgy local grocery for the last few years, and I've posted a couple of recipes calling for them. This year we are growing them ourselves, as the supply is unreliable, but their intermittent presence reminded me that I like them very much.

Poblano means "from Puebla", which is the state in Mexico from whence, presumably, these peppers originate. Puebla is in south-central Mexico (not too far from Mexico City) but they have spread far and wide enough to be very popular well into the southern United States. Speaking of wide, if these peppers are dried they are called "anchos" (meaning "wide") and they are very popular in this way as well as fresh. Looking at the map, I note that Puebla is not too far from Jalapa, the source of another very popular Mexican chile.

They are not the ideal chile for growing in our climate; they did very well this summer but if we had tried them in last year's cool, rainy summer I suspect they would have been much less happy. Still, in a hot year they should do well here. Like pretty much all peppers they need to be started indoors 2 months before planting them out after all danger of frost. That means we start ours from around March 24th to April 1st. Bottom heat is useful. After that, keep them warm and keep them reasonably well watered, and by the end of August you should be picking plenty of peppers; let's call that 75 to 80 days to maturity. We support our plants with a tomato cage; I think that's a good idea. Plants loaded with ripening peppers can get so top-heavy they topple over.

The peppers themselves are unusual, being very dark green, almost black, ripening to very dark red, almost black. They have a unique sweet and smoky quality. Their heat level varies considerably, although I would describe these a hot eating chile rather than a hot seasoning chile. You may find only a few flickers of heat more than your average bell pepper, or they may be very spicy indeed. You may find both conditions on chiles from the same plant, and in fact within a single pepper. Be prepared to be surprised, although they do get hotter as they ripen, and I suspect that like other chiles, they are often hotter when grown in hotter, drier weather. The flesh is fairly thick and substantial, and the peppers are large, so these are commonly stuffed with cheese and fried in an egg batter (I baked mine) although there are lots of other tasty options.

Their skins can be rather tough and papery, and the chiles are usually roasted to allow the skins to be peeled from them before they are incorporated into whatever dish they are destined for. Since I anticipate having lots of peppers I plan to roast and peel many of them, then vacuum-pack and freeze them for use in the winter. I hope you are able to find some because I expect to have a few recipes to post for them!