Tuesday, August 4, 2015

summer vacation

I'm off for summer vacation. I'll tell you all about it when I get back . . .

Hope you, too, get to eat lots of ice cream on your summer vacation!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

chicken coconut curry soup

This has been one of our top five weeknight soups for the past three years (thanks, Sheri!).

For some reason, we didn't break it out to serve at a dinner party until just a couple of weeks ago. One guest had been suffering from a terrible cough and I thought chicken soup was in order.

It's a humble chicken soup and  if you already have leftover chicken and rice  it comes together very quickly indeed.

But the way it tastes . . . It's kind of like the thick soup version of a really good plate of creamy-but-slightly-sour coconut curry on rice. It tastes comforting but exotic to my European-Canadian palate and I love it.

Luckily, our dinner guests  both coughing and non  did, too, and quickly asked for the recipe. So, here it is.

P.S. I think you might be able to guess what our new favourite quick dinner-party dish is. And if you're wondering about making this in the summer: it's a dream. You don't need the stove on for very long, and everyone likes slightly spicy food in the heat.

one year ago: oatmeal chocolate cherry cookies
two years ago: asian slaw
three years ago: salmon with warm tomato basil oil
four years ago: cherry hazelnut cake
five years ago: honey orange cream and loganberry jelly

chicken coconut curry soup
adapted from savory sweet life
serves 3  4

2 tbsp. olive oil
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped finely
1/2 onion, chopped finely
1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped finely
2 tbsp. fish sauce
3 tbsp. red curry paste*
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 can coconut milk (about 400 ml or 14 oz.)
 4 c. chicken broth
1 c. cooked chicken meat (may be previously frozen), shredded or chopped
1 c. cooked white rice (may be previously frozen) **
3 small limes, juiced
3 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped finely

Set a big heavy pot over medium heat. Heat the olive oil, then stir in the carrot, onion and red bell pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce, curry paste and brown sugar. Cook until the curry paste is incorporated, about 2  3 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 15  20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the chicken, rice and lime juice. Bring it back to a gentle simmer. Taste for seasoning. You might need a bit more curry paste or a little salt here (although the fish sauce can be very salty), or maybe the juice of another lime to perk it up. Stir in most of the cilantro. Serve with a bit of fresh cilantro on top.

* I use the Thai Kitchen brand. It's not hot at all, and I sometimes add more at the end.
** I like Jasmine or Japanese rice here

Monday, June 29, 2015

martini rosso

This past weekend, we had the kind of summer weather where all you can do is tape old sheets over your unadorned windows and sit, panting and sipping sun tea, because you are just too exhausted from all that effort.

Luckily, on Sunday, we managed to escape our dark sauna (that is, otherwise lovely 103-year-old home where most windows are painted shut) to visit our friends and sit in their shady backyard while they plied us with drinks and flourless chocolate cake with saskatoon berry compote and ice cream.

When we arrived, Niall had the drinks set out on the counter, and even a little list of all our options.

Megan pointed out the Martini Rosso bottle and said how her German friend had introduced her to it years ago. It was a simple, squat bottle that looked unmistakably Italian. Who was I to resist?

Niall mixed it with 7UP, dropped in a few ice cubes, and my drink was ready.

It was beguiling. I thought I could taste herbs and maybe fruit. Even with the 7UP, it wasn't too sweet, just cool and refreshing. This, I thought, would certainly help me survive the sauna that is our home.

It turns out that Martini Rosso is a sweet vermouth that has been made in Turin, Italy since at least 1863. (So at least history is on my side, although I'm not sure if 7UP has such an illustrious pedigree.) It's a kind of fortified wine with herbs and barks and spices to flavour it. The nice thing for a hot day is that it also only has 15% alcohol content. Mixed with a good amount of 7UP, that means it's refreshing instead of walloping.

I'm now on the look out for my own bottle. We often have ginger ale at home, so I think I'll try mixing that in next. I hope you, too, can have many cool drinks on hot summer days.

one year ago: quick zucchini sauté and summer salad template: warm asparagus kale salad
two years ago: chewy granola bars and longest day link love
three years ago: hop & go fetch it: pacific rim edition and penne with sausage and greens
four years ago: tomato cheddar soufflé with asparagus and kathleen claiborne's hot cakes
five years ago: chocolate peanut butter oatcakes and chilli pasta

martini rosso
this is an idea for a rough outline of a recipe   just pour and you'll be fine

1 part Martini Rosso
4 parts 7UP or ginger ale
ice cubes

Stir the Martini Rosso and 7UP together. Taste and adjust if necessary. Add ice. Sit under a tree in the backyard and take a long sip.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

pasta with yogurt, peas, and chile

Here's what I like about this recipe. You blend some peas  and hold some peas back  with yogurt, olive oil and garlic until it makes a smooth, pale-green sauce. Which is something I never would have thought of.

Later, you add coarsely-crumbled feta cheese and ripped basil leaves. Which, frankly, make everything better.

At the end, you spoon little dribbles of red-chiled-olive oil and golden pine nuts over your pasta.

And that's it. You eat it, and you thank Orangette and Jerusalem for both creating it and letting you know about it.

one year ago: buttermilk cookies en route to calgary and pasta with smoked trout and asparagus
two years ago: asparagus and cheese sauce on toast
three years ago: mango love on oahu and chinese-canadian lettuce wraps
four years ago: dutch marzipan cookies and oregon hazelnut salad
five years ago: chocolate nut balls and ripe bean soup

pasta with yogurt, peas, and chile
slightly adapted from Orangette and Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
makes six servings

500 g. (1 1/2 c.) whole-milk Greek yogurt
150 ml. (2/3 c.) olive oil, separated to 90 ml + 60 ml.
2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
500 g. (1 lb.) fresh or frozen peas, thawed
kosher salt
450  500 g. pasta shapes
50  60 g. (1/3  scant 1/2 c.) pine nuts
2 tsp. Korean, Turkish, or Syrian chile flakes, or red pepper flakes
1/2 c.  1 2/3 c. basil leaves, coarsely torn*
240 g. (8 oz.) feta cheese, coarsely crumbled

Get out your food processor. Blend the yogurt, 90 ml. (6 tbsp.) olive oil, the garlic and 100 g. (2/3 c.) peas. Process until it's a consistent pale green and pour into a large mixing bowl.

Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water. Cook until just al dente. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Warm the remaining olive oil, then add the pine nuts and chile flakes. Cook for about 4 minutes  keep an eye on it to make sure neither the nuts nor the chile flakes burns. When the pine nuts are golden, take the pan off the heat.

Cook the remaining peas in water for a couple minutes in the microwave until they're not raw, but just slightly cooked. Drain.

Pour a bit of the drained pasta into the big bowl with the green sauce and mix. (If you add it all at once, the sauce could separate.) Repeat with the rest of the pasta. Stir in the warm peas, basil, feta and 1 tsp. kosher salt. Gently toss. Put into serving dishes, and spoon a bit of oil and pine nuts over top. Serve.

* This is a huge variation. If you've got tons of basil growing in your garden, do use the higher amount. But if you have to buy very expensive basil at the grocery store, it's still very good with the smaller amount.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

where to eat: halifax, charlottetown and calgary

Heading east this summer?

Think locally-roasted coffee, scallops, haddock, and  teeny-tiny-blueberry cobbler for dessert.

Heading west?

Think more locally-roasted coffee, burgers, fried chicken, and meringue-orange curd sundae for dessert.

I've just updated hop & go fetch it with my favourite places to eat in Halifax, Charlottetown and Calgary. Scroll down to find the province and city you're looking for  there are sections for British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

snack chronicles: cheddar oatcakes

Meet my new favourite snack: the cheddar oatcake.

It is crisp and cheesy with little nubbins of steel-cut oats, and I ate the last one this morning and I'm going to have to fix that soon. Very soon.

The recipe comes from Lucy Waverman, who says she first tried a cheesy oatcake at a farm store on the Isle of Mull. She recommends Mull cheddar, but, of course, sharp Canadian cheddar works, too.

The technique is ingenious: mix the oats, flour and cheese, and then drizzle melted butter and water in. At that point, it looks like wet oatmeal.

But after 10 or 15 minutes, the quick oats have soaked some water in and everything starts to come together into dough. To cut them into circles, I used the biscuit cutter my Scottish aunt gave me when I was 14.

In the oven, the oatcakes don't spread, but instead crisp up and puff just a bit. Once they have cooled, they are firm but a little crumbly, and all together the nicest mid-morning snack you could have. Or mid-afternoon.

P.S. If you're curious about the plate, it's my great-grandmother Henrietta McGaw's wedding china. She was from another Scottish island, the Isle of Skye.

One year ago: lentil soup with chorizo croûtes
Two years ago: rhubarb syrup and cauliflower and mull cheddar soup (must be something about this time of year that calls for mull cheddar!)
Three years ago: gouda and roasted pepper dip and grilled chicken sandwiches
Four years ago: sour cream coffee cake
Five years ago: swedish tea cookies

cheddar oatcakes
slightly adapted from Lucy Waverman, Globe and Mail
bakes about 30 oatcakes

2/3 c. steel-cut oats
1 1/2 c. quick-cooking oats
1/2 c. wheat flour
     or gluten-free:
     30 g. millet flour
     20 g. sweet rice flour
     20 g. potato starch
     1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp. regular salt)
4 oz. (about 1 1/2 c.) sharp cheddar, grated
3/4 c. butter, melted
 2 tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stir both kinds of oats, flour(s), salt and cheddar together in a large bowl. Drizzle the melted butter and water over top. Stir until well mixed. Let stand 10  15 minutes, until it's firmed up and can come together. If it still feels too crumbly, add a little more water and stir it in.

Flour your working surface with wheat flour or, if gluten-free, sweet rice flour. Get out a 2 1/2 inch cutter and rolling pin. Knead the dough into a ball.  Roll out with floured rolling pin until about 1/4 inch thick. Flour cutter and cut out biscuits. Put biscuits on baking sheets. Bake 25  30 minutes, until they have a little colour and are lightly golden around the edges. Let cool on baking sheet.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

lemon chicken soup with spaghetti

Over the past ten days, we have made three different kinds of chicken soup.

We've made them all to help cure a dreadful cough that's kept us up at night and breaking into hacking fits during the day. Oh, and because chicken soup tastes good.

This is soup number two. (I might also tell you about soup number three soon.)

I've been making it for at least five years now, ever since I saw Giada waxing on about it in her pretty way while I was on a plane to Toronto. I'd never seen Giada before, and the recipe struck me so much that I bought her cookbook when I got home again. For this soup alone, the book is worth it.

While I believe in the power of chicken bones in broth, I also get tired and lazy when I have the plague. Giada calls for a rotisserie chicken, which  if you can brave going to the grocery store while you're having a coughing fit at the very busiest time of day  makes it dead easy. (Just pack a couple cough candies for the trip.)

We usually shred half the chicken for this soup, and shred the other half for the freezer to ponder for a future meal. Otherwise, it's simple. I added the step of frying the onion, carrot and celery because I think it helps the soup come together better, but after that, all you do is add broth and lemon juice, and eventually cook some broken-up spaghetti.

It might seem odd to top a chicken soup with parmesan cheese, but  trust me  it is lovely and salty against the freshness of the lemon in the soup. Altogether: very pleasing and welcome at this invalid's dinner table.

one year ago: spicy salmon broth
two years ago: stinging nettle soup
three years ago: paska and zeppelin pancakes
four years ago: gumdrop cookies
five years ago: butterscotch pudding and chocolate cheesecake

lemon chicken soup with spaghetti
adapted from Giada at Home by Giada di Laurentiis

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, finely diced

2 big carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
 10 c. chicken broth

1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 bay leaf
1 c. broken spaghetti* (1  2 inch pieces)
2 c. cooked rotisserie chicken, shredded or diced
1/4 c. parsley, chopped
salt to taste
1 c. parmesan or asiago cheese, grated finely

Heat a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Melt the oil and butter. Add the onion, carrot and celery and fry until somewhat softened and the onions are glossy and starting to look clear, about 10 minutes. Stir every so often.

Add the broth, lemon juice and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer until the vegetables are tender, 10  15 minutes. Add the spaghetti and cook until the noodles are cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken and heat through. Stir the parsley in. Taste for salt, knowing you will also add salty cheese to your bowls of soup soon.

Ladle into bowls, and let everyone top their bowl with a good helping of cheese. Eat!

*We use gluten-free corn spaghetti by La Veneziane

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

peanut sesame noodles

This is the kind of food that satisfies all my cravings, and doesn't even have a speck of butter or cheese. What it does have is peanut butter, which seems to make everything  sweet or savoury  much better.

Deb with Smitten Kitchen calls this "Single Girl's Dinner." I could imagine it would be good eaten alone, since it tastes much like take out (but about a zillion times better). But I can't call it that because Scott likes it just as much as I do.

That's a good thing, because we served it for his birthday last year and it was great party food that stretched and stretched (along with some Mexican meatballs in tomato-chipotle sauce) for seconds and thirds and even leftovers.

The peanut dressing alone, with ginger and soy and rice vinegar and honey, is the kind of thing where you feel compelled to either lick the mixing bowl or get out a spatula to get every last drop.

And that's before you've mixed it with stretchy buckwheat soba noodles, peppers, carrots and sesame baked tofu . . . and showered sesame seeds on top.

It all comes together into the most pleasing peanut butter noodle dish. I could eat it again right now.

one year ago: brigadeiros
two years ago: night circus mice
three years ago: lemon gumdrops
four years ago: up island
five years ago: sophisticated marshmallow squares and a soup among friends

peanut sesame noodles
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
serves 4

peanut dressing
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
1/4 c. soy sauce*
1/3 c. warm water
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp. Asian toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. Korean red pepper flakes or a splash of your favourite hot sauce

noodles and veg
340 g. (3/4 lb.) soba noodles*
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 carrots, julienned or thickly grated
1 batch sesame baked tofu (recipe follows)
3 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted

Get the sesame baked tofu going (see below).

Blend the dressing ingredients together until smooth, ideally with an immersion blender. Set aside.

Bring a big pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the soba noodles 6  8 minutes, until tender with a hint of a bite. Strain them and rinse well with cold water.

Stir the dressing, noodles, green onions, peppers, carrots and sesame-soy tofu together. Mix well. Serve and top each with a liberal coating of sesame seeds.

sesame baked tofu
via Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook

2 tbsp. soy sauce*
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 block firm tofu, chopped into cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Whisk the soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper together in a medium bowl. Toss the tofu in the dressing. Spread the tofu cubes onto the prepared baking pan. Bake for about 15 minutes.

*If you are making this meal gluten-free, make sure the soba is 100% buckwheat with no wheat and that your soy sauce doesn't contain wheat.