Blueberry Flam?

No you heard me right – flam.

This was supposed to be my entry to the BC Blueberry contest last year, but I procrastinated and missed the deadline.  It was a luxurious take on a Mexican flan made with cream cheese, Marscarpone and white chocolate with a blueberry caramel.  

Jason kept referring to it as flam, which was awesome all by itself.  But then, I gave the leftovers to my lactose intolerant brother (he asked for it) and he ate it all in one sitting, at work.  ūüôā  I am not sure that he’ll ever forget this flan.  I know I won’t! 

It’s All In The Tomato

I love tomatoes. 

I know they’re not exotic but in the world of vegetables there’s just no match for a tomatoes versatility.  Freshly sliced and layered on toast or used to round out the flavor of a winter braise, the tomato spans all seasons, preparations and regions of the world.  It is a wonderful thing.

And I love bruschetta.

I’ve eaten it a more than a few (thousand) times yet I’ve never attempted to make it.  The truth is I didn’t trust the recipes – how could a few everyday ingredients make the aromatic rich tasting bruschetta that I get from the Italian market?  It couldn’t – right?  So, I kept on buying it and was  perfectly content thinking I was making a sound choice.

And then it happened.¬† I had been at my favorite tomato booth at the Market,¬†courtesy of some friends¬†and I had a cache of vine ripened, hand-picked, ruby red tomatoes at my disposal.¬† Now, on it’s own this circumstance would not have inspired bruschetta, but when an unexpected dinner guest arrived, that’s exactly what happened.¬† And suprise me it did…¬† A few carefully selected ripened ingredients and I¬†can¬†make a killer bruschetta.¬† Who knew!?¬† Certainly not me.¬†

Tomato Bruschetta:

  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 6 large basil leaves – julienned
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 C extra virgin olive oil (maybe slightly less)
  • Salt
  • Cracked black pepper

Mix together ingredients and let stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.  Serve with lightly toasted french bread.

I’m making this again – soon.  Next time I’m going to add a tbsp or so of diced jalapeno.

Pancakes anyone?

It’s freaking cold out, Jason’s gone off to somewhere much nicer and most possibly warmer and I have a full-on case of the winter blah’s. 

I don’t feel like leaving the house, going to the store, shoveling the walk one more time or waking up in the dismal darkness.  Isn’t there a name for this kind of thing, seasonal attitude dysfunction or something?  Yuck.  It also means that I’m forcing myself to survive off the givings of my freezer and that’s been a bit of a hit and miss.  The pantry is also getting bare, at least by my standards.  

Scraping the bottom, for tonight’s menu a package of ground pork, 1/2 an onion and a jar of kimchi.  And you think this is going downhill don’t you?  Not so.  Not so at all.  I adapted this recipe from Saveur, added a few pinches of salt, pepper, a couple of cloves of minced garlic and about 1 tbsp of paprika and voila!  I didn’t have any rice flour (see above for reference to bare pantry), so I used AP flour and reduced the water by a bit.     

In school we made a similar kind of Japanese green cabbage pancake topped with a squirt of mayo, a drizzle of okonomiyaki sauce and mountain of bonito flakes.  Taking the lead from that dish I served these crispy fried kimchi patties up Japanese street vendor style with a mayo and oyster sauce. 

Any ideas for buttermilk, oranges and tomato sauce?  Maybe it’s time to find that grocery delivery pamphlet.

Weekend Dinner Finale

You would think a big gooey cheese salad followed by a bowl of piping hot onion soup would be enough for dinner on a snowy freezing day, but then you would be wrong.  The man of the house wanted, you guessed it, meat.  Sad thing is I actually understand – it’s not easy to come down off a hamburger high you know, these things have to be eased into.

Keeping with the winter weather theme, I made a short rib braise with roasted potatoes and carrots using a recipe I adapted from the Zuni Cafe cookbook’s Short Ribs Braised in Chimney Ale. 

The book recommends salting the ribs a day or two in advance, but I know from experience that when your husband whines about eating only vegetables for dinner and you have to make a quick decision, that an hour in advance works too.  Brown the ribs in a heavy pot or dutch oven.  Remove the ribs and add one sliced onion, 6 sliced button mushrooms, 2 bay leaves and cracked pepper.  Nestle the ribs back in and then add equal parts veal stock and Heineken beer until it comes partially up the side of the ribs.  Simmer covered with a tight fitting lid for two hours or so until the meat is very tender.

Then just before serving, take the ribs out and brush them with Dijon mustard and then broil them until the mustard is lightly browned.  Very simple, but don’t let that fool you.  The dish was surprisingly good.

And no there was no typo, this was the finale for the night.  There wasn’t even a tiny bit of space left for dessert.  So I made that on Sunday.

Weekend Dinner

I don’t know about you, but the weekend is my time to cook.¬† During the week I rarely take the time to cook a big dinner – who am I kidding, I rarely take the time to cook a small dinner.¬† It seems like we walk in the door Jason makes something quick and then it’s off to the dog to the park.¬† There’s just not much time for food and that means cheese smokies, hamburgers and a¬†lot¬†of ketchup.¬† And even though it’s super yummy¬†Stonewall Kitchen – Country Ketchup, when it starts becoming it’s own food group there’s just too much ketchup.

And it was on Saturday night, with another hamburger dinner looming on the horizon, that I snapped out of my gastronomic drought.  Luckily the fridge was well stocked, so I was able to jump into action without having to leave the house.  The first course for the night was a mixed green salad with blood orange vinaigrette and fried Kofalotiri cheese.  The sweet & sour dressing and bitter greens were the perfect accompaniment for the salty Greek cheese.

Toss the salad with the dressing before starting the cheese, then the salad can be quickly assembled and served while the cheese is still hot.  Cut the cheese into the size you want to serve, but make it about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  Heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat and add the cheese to the hot pan.  The cheese will start to melt immediately, but don’t worry it will hold it’s shape.  Let the cheese melt for several seconds and brown before flipping it and browning on the other side.  The cheese will still be quite firm.  Arrange it on the plate and then add the dressed greens.  Serve immediately.

Veggie Stock Finale

Oh my!  I almost forgot to post about using the last of my veggie stock!  Now I have to try and remember what happened. 

I remember it tasted great.  I took all the leftovers to work for lunches.  I also remember that choosing the second dish for my stock wasn’t too difficult.  I had a wee bit of stock left and as I flipped through recipes not many doors were opening for me.  But, I love coconut milk and cashews, especially together, so this was my choice.

If I make it again though I’ll add a few chili peppers, heat would be better.

Red Beans with Coconut and Cashews

Olive oil
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 carrots sliced thick
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 colored bell pepper, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp paprika
4 tbsp tomato paste
14 oz can coconut milk
1 small can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of (precious) veggie stock
1 large can of kidney beans, rinsed
Red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 cup roasted unsalted cashews 
1 large handful of fresh parsley, chopped
cooked white rice

Saute the onions and carrots until tender and then add the crushed garlic, bell pepper and lightly brown.  Then add the spices, tomatoes, coconut milk and stock and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and turn down the heat and simmer slowly for about 45 minutes.  Before serving stir in the chopped parsley and toasted cashews and then serve over rice.  I’d suggest using as many chili flakes as you can handle!

*Recipe adapted from 30 minute vegetarian by Joanna Farrow

More From the Photo Gallery

This was another photo that I had gathering dust in my photo gallery. 

These fancy bites are my twist on sticky rice.   Last year I was cooking for a Chinese themed dinner party and I devised these so I could serve sticky rice with all the flavor and half the mess.  They aren’t wrapped in lotus leaves, so I added the leaves to the water in the bottom of the steamer before steaming the rice.  It worked perfectly the rice was infused with the earthy aroma of lotus leaves.

In the bottom of a jelly roll pan lined with parchment I pressed a thin layer of sticky rice, then a layer of sweet pork filling and then another thin layer of sticky rice.  I tossed white and black sesame seeds over the rice and then pressed lightly to adhere them to the rice.  I cooled these slightly and then cut them using a biscuit cutter.  To rewarm cover with a moist towel and place in a warm oven, for several minutes.

Messy Shrimp

This super easy dish accompanied a salad and grilled bison tenderloin for dinner a few weeks ago.¬† I had a giant bag of shrimp in the fridge that I couldn’t put off using and 1/2 a jar of¬†Classico Sundried Tomato Pesto¬†that I also needed to use up.

Browsing the epicurious website I found this recipe and adapted it to the ingredients I had on hand.  I used the wine, butter and basil from the recipe and added a few big spoonfuls of the pesto.  It  turned out to be a big hit and I would certainly make it again.  Next time though I will make a lot more sauce and serve it with fresh French bread for dipping.  Serve with napkins!

A Big Pot of Jambalaya

I don’t have a lot to say about Jambalaya.¬† I don’t like making, smelling or eating it.¬† Are you wondering why I make it?¬† If you must know, I make it to be a¬†good wife.¬† I cook dinner straight after tidying up and then I rush to refresh myself.¬† Ha-ha!¬† Apparently the cleaning up part will even lift¬†my¬†spirits!¬† Perfect.¬† ūüôā¬† I can’t tell you the last time dusting or vacuuming has lifted my spirits – maybe I’m not doing it right.¬† ¬†

I actually do make jambalaya because Jason likes it and because it’s one of the few ways he eats his veggies.  So while it’s not on my list of favorites, I soldier on.  I make it sound bad, but I’d have to score it an 8 or 9 in comparison to others I’ve tried.  Deconstructed it doesn’t seem bad at all – peppers, tomatoes, shrimp, sausage and chicken.  What’s not to like?  Maybe I just can’t hack so many protein sources in one dish.  Like shrimp on pepperoni pizza – gross.

Jambalaya:

1 chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 lb shrimp
1 large smoked sausage link cut into bite sized pieces
1 1/2 cup of raw rice
1/2 cup diced celery
1 small green pepper, diced
1 small red pepper, diced
1 jalape√Īo pepper, diced
1 large can tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock

Fry chicken and sausage in olive oil until browned and then add shrimp, cook for a couple of minutes and then remove from heat and reserve.   Saute onion in olive oil and cook for of a couple of minutes before adding the garlic, peppers and celery.  Once lightly browned add the browned meat, tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings.  Mix in the rice and stock and simmer until rice is almost cooked.  Just before serving stir in the white wine and parsley.

Jambo Marafiki

Wow!  Time sure can get away from you – I hope there are still a few of you out there that remember who I am.  I knew it had been quite some time since my last post, but November!  Really, that’s bad. 

Luckily my excuse is a good one – Jason and I had our wedding in Tanzania and we were there for most of January.  Of course there was a lot to organize before the trip so blogging got put on the back burner. 

We were married at¬†Gibb’s Farm¬†in Karatu and then we spent the remaining 3 weeks on safari (which, in case you were wondering, explains the hippo picture – I assure you we didn’t eat them, they’re vile creatures). It was an amazing trip and I don’t think the impression that it made on me will ever fade.¬† At least I hope it won’t.¬† ¬†The wedding was perfectly organized by the staff at Gibb’s and included two ceremonies performed by local tribes, endless tropical flowers, a beautiful cake, traditional Tanzanian food and a performance by a local band that made for an wonderful and unforgettable experience.¬†

There were 23 people from Canada and the US that followed us over 30 hours by plane and bus to Tanzania, where as a group we spent 8 days bumping around in Land Rovers and staying in tented camps.  Our adventures took us around Tarangire National Park, the Nogorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park.  We got to see the pages of National Geographic come to life, eat fabulous food cooked over open coals while sitting under an umbrella sparkling African stars and then we got to fall asleep to the sound of a roaring lion in search of his pride.  It was the trip of a lifetime and I hope to be lucky enough to make it again.

After the first 8 days with friends and family, Jason and I ventured off on our own to explore Ruaha National Park and Selous Game Reserve.  The wildlife and the diverse scenery of the other parks was amazing.  Ruaha, in Southern Tanzania had recently seen rain and was lush and green with rocky shrub covered hills and sandy riverbeds.  While our camp in Selous was perched on the banks of the the river,  lined with palms trees, dense shrub and more often then not, hippos.  We continued to game drive during the days, but we took several walking safaris with the park Rangers and even got to take a boat safari.  The food was always wonderful, but the most memorable thing for me was the fresh fruit.  For every meal there was pineapple, bananas, tomatoes, papaya and mango and I never got tired of it.

It was the perfect honeymoon.

For now though it’s back into my kitchen and back to blogging.  I have several great gifts that have recently found residence in my kitchen (thanks to the wedding registry) such as a Kitchen-Aid mix master, a Cuisinart food processor and a Cuisinart ice cream maker.  So stay tuned!