Friday, September 30, 2011

Beer Bread with Cheese in Cast Iron

At the beginning of September, I was starting to panic - I hadn't cooked very much and I was running out of completed recipes for the blog. At the same time, things were just plain busy - and beans on toast was for dinner.

That afternoon, before starting dinner, I saw a recipe that inspired me to make a change to dinner plans - and bake... sort of. Food Floozie had just wrote about a buttery beer bread covered in cheese. Not wanting to completely duplicate her efforts, I switched things around a bit. I used olive oil instead of butter, and not nearly as much cheese (read: I ran out of cheese).

By the time I got the bread into the oven, neighbours dropped by to invite us to supper - so the bread ended up being a yummy pre-dinner snack (and part of my lunch for the following day!).

The final result was great - warm, dense, soft, and it still had a cheese and onion-y goodness to it. I imagine it wasn't as rich or tasty as the Food Floozie's, tho.

Beer Bread with Cheese in Cast Iron

3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 12-ounce bottle of beer
4 oz Cheddar cheese, shredded
  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
  2. Heat oil in a 9-inch cast-iron pan and add the onion, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes, Fry until the onions are translucent.
  3. Whisk together the flours and baking powder in a large bowl and stir in the onion and garlic mixture.
  4. Continue to mix while slowly stirring in the beer.
  5. stir in the cheese and transfer the mixture back into the pan.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre of the bread comes out clean. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.
Mostly based on Food Floozie's Beer 'n Cheese Bread

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grilled Poached Salmon with Lemon

It's very important to cook with good ingredients. Not everything on sale is really worth the purchase.

Near the end of August, I found some salmon fillets on sale at the local grocery store. It wasn't until I got it home and had a good look at it that I realized that the fish didn't look very good. It looked a little freezer burnt and when I defrosted it, it wasn't very pink or very firm.

You get what you pay for.

The final result wasn't as tasty as I would've liked, however, I know that it would've tasted much, much better if I had a decent piece of fish. I also should've sliced some onions on top as well to add additional flavour.
Grilling some yellow zucchini and peppers. The salmon is to
the right. I took this photo with a new phone app I'm having
fun with, so the photo wasn't actually snapped in 1982.
Grilled Poached Salmon with Lemon

1 side salmon
1/2 lemon, squeezed
3 small pats of butter
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced (recommended, but not pictured)
  1. Preheat grill on medium.
  2. Place salmon on a long stretch of double-thickness (or two sheets of) foil (3-4 feet).
  3. Cut the salmon into portions using a sharp knife, being careful to not cut the skin.
  4. Squeeze 1/2 lemon over salmon. Arrange butter, sliced lemons and optional onions along the top of the salmon and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Fold foil over fish and turn up edges to create a poaching packet and palce on grill for 15 minutes or until flish flakes easily with a fork.
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Friday, September 23, 2011

Grilled Ratatouille

Looking at the recipes I've published during the last month or so, I realized that since fixing my barbecue, I've been grilling quite frequently. In a previous life, I barbecued Moroccan sausages 12-months a year. As long as I had a beer in my hand and I was bundled up, I was good. I might restart that tradition.

Ever since I saw the movie Ratatouille, I've wanted to try making my own version of the vegetable stew. I even found a couple of recipes that follow the signature dish from the movie. The presentation is just as beautiful in real life as it was on screen, however, it was a little too much for me. I wanted something more rustic (read: less complicated preparation).

When I saw Alea's grilled ratatouille, I thought I had found what I was looking for as a starting point, but I didn't realize what I was getting myself into. I took Alea's idea of grilling the vegetables before the finer chopping, chose my own vegetables and quantities (similar to hers), and added some tomato sauce as well.

Where things went south for me was in the cleaning department (I like one-pot dishes): I used more bowls than I thought I would for the prep (with all of the vegetables soaking in oil); chopping the vegetables after grilling, but before adding them to the pot with sauce also got messy. Really messy. I'll make sure to take appropriate measures next time and avoid a much bigger cleanup job than I had originally anticipated.

Taste-wise, it was a huge hit. Everyone loved it. I'll definitely be making it again.

A couple days later, for the benefit of the movie-going crowd, I served the leftover ratatouille over linguini (har, har).

Grilled Ratatouille

2 yellow zucchini, sliced into 1cm rounds
2 green zucchini, sliced into 1cm rounds
1 purple eggplant, sliced into 1cm rounds
2 sweet onions, peeled and sliced in half
2 red peppers, seeded and sliced in half
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced in half
8 roma tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 kilo portobella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 pint tomato sauce
1/2 cup red basil, chopped
  1. Preheat the grill.
  2. Brush or toss vegetables with olive oil.
  3. Grill the zucchini, eggplant and onions for 10-15 minutes (turning to grill all sides).
  4. Grill the peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms for 6-10 minutes (turning to grill all sides).
  5. In a dutch oven, heat a small amount of olive oil on medium and add garlic. Stir for 1 minute.
  6. Add tomato sauce and simmer on low.
  7. Meanwhile, chop grilled vegetables and add them to tomato sauce.
Serve with sliced baguette.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Linda Restaurant

For our anniversary, Meredith and I didn't just want to eat out - we wanted to dine. North York isn't exactly abundant in fine dining, however, there are a few places where you can get a nice meal.
The Shops on Don Mills is full of boutique type stores and some nice upscale restaurants. Among those restaurants is Linda by Salad King.  Linda is not Salad King - it's quite different. You don't get to choose the level of heat, nor do you sit at benches next to other diners. It was a beautiful evening so Meredith and I sat on the patio, however, the interior is quite nice - not too modern but quite elegant.  We started with some beers before ordering.

Meredith and I started with the Sea Queen - calamari fried and breaded with butter and thyme. It was served with a honey and chili sauce. The calamari was a little oily, however, the honey and chili sauce was so feakin' good it didn't matter. It was all we could do to not finish the remaining sauce with a spoon.

For my main, I chose the duck in red curry sauce. The duck was smoked and grilled, and served with vegetables  garnished with Thai basil. The skin on the duck was crispy and the duck was soft and perfect. I added the rice bowl to the additional sauce and even mixed the basil in. Meredith's opinion of the duck was pretty much the same as mine - she really liked it - almost as much as her main.

Meredith had the shrimp panang curry, made with peanuts and coconut milk, served with vegetables and Thai basil. The sauce wasn't terribly spicy, however it was incredibly tasty. The shrimp was great, too. Not overcooked and rubbery as I've had elsewhere.

By the end of dinner, we were stuffed, but Meredith had checked the menu online earlier in the day and had her heart set on a particular dessert - the chocolate burst: deep fried glutinous rice ball rolled in sesame seeds and stuffed with dark chocolate, drizzled with mint and coconut syrup. It was a great dessert - not too sweet and a perfect quantity for the two of us.

Overall, we were more than impressed. Dinner, including three drinks, totalled just under $100 - not inexpensive, however, not bad for the quality of the meal and service. We definitely want to go back again.

Linda Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Secret Recipe Club: Creamy Cucumber Salad with Dill

Another month, another Secret Recipe Club recipe. This month, I was assigned the Gonzo Gourmet, a blog from Southern California that focuses on lighter cooking - salads, desserts, sandwiches, etc.

Secret Recipe ClubSince Labour Day was fast approaching, I figured a simple salad for our small barbecue would be appropriate, and I chose the cucumbers with sour cream and dill. The only real change I made was salting the cucumber first (to drain the water) and I swapped out the sour cream for Greek yogurt. They taste very similar, however, the yogurt is fat-free.

I decided to use my food processor for the slicing, and in doing so, I managed to destroy an entire cucumber. I had forgotten to remove the part that allows the slices to fall into the machine's bowl, so once sliced, it whirred around and around until it was nearly mush. I put the mush aside and drained it for tzaziki sauce. After properly slicing the cucumber on my second attempt, it was smooth sailing.

Although there's Greek yogurt and cucumber, I must say that it tasted nothing like tzaziki sauce, as I was expecting. The vinegar added a nice tartness to the salad and we really enjoyed it.

Creamy Cucumber Salad with Dill

1 English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
3 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  1. Place the cucumber slices on a tea towel or paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, whisk together yogurt, vinegar, sugar, pepper and dill.
  3. Blot cucumbers with paper towel to remove excess liquid and then stir into dressing.
  4. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving.
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Curried Hummus (Curry in a Hurry)

When I saw a curried hummus recipe at Bitter Sweet, Bitter Sweet's recipe was a basic hummus mixed with a Madras curry powder. I have my own hummus recipe and I've made a Madras curry before, so it should be quite easy. I knew I had to make my own version. I guess it's called curry in a hurry because it's simple and quick.

The result was great. Meredith loved it and we ate it on pita with some felafel. Tasty.

Curried Hummus (Curry in a Hurry)

Spice mixture:

1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ginger powder
Remaining ingredients:

1 can chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup tehina
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
  1. In a small container, combine all ingredients for the spice mixture and shake until thoroughly mixed. Set 1/2 tsp aside for garnish.
  2. Reserve 1-2 tbsp chickpeas for garnish.
  3. Combine remaining chickpeas, spices, olive oil, tehina and lemon juice all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Add water to reach desired consistency if necessary.
  4. Garnish with remaining chickpeas, a splash of olive oil and curry powder.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bleu Cheese Chicken Burger

Continuing the cottage story from last week - I really didn't do a lot of creative cooking. I did do a lot of grilling. One of the first meals I prepared that week involved a few prepared products, however, it's how it turned out in the end that is worth blogging about.

It all started with the giant green zucchini. We were given the enormous squash as a gift from a neighbour's garden just before we left for the cottage. We just packed it in the car with everything else. I knew I'd be able to use it over the course of the week.

Aside from a few basics, we had packed some cheeses, prepared chicken burgers (thank you, President's Choice), sausages, bread, buns and pastas. The first thing I wanted to do was make burgers.

It was when I opened the fridge at the cottage that I received some inspiration. There was a bottle of President's Choice Balsamic Glaze on the door. I knew that we were free to use the sauces, so I had to do something with it. I wanted to use it on the burgers. Chicken burgers can sometimes be a bit plain.

While preparing dinner, I realized that we needed to start on that zucchini right away. As soon as I started to slice into it, I realized that the slices were a perfect burger size. Then I remembered the bleu cheese in the fridge.

What resulted was a tasty, easy to make gourmet burger, if you ignore the basic bun that I used.

Bleu Cheese Chicken Burger

4 chicken burgers (beef acceptable)
4 slices zucchini rounds (cut to 1/2-inch thick)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp pepper
4 hamburger buns (splurge and get something nice)
4 tbsp crumbled bleu cheese
President's Choice Balsamic Glaze
  1. Grill the burgers following package directions.
  2. Brush the zucchini with oil and sprinkle with pepper.
  3. Grill the zucchini on medium-high for five to eight minutes on each side, until toasty, but not mushy or burnt.
  4. Lightly toast buns on the grill.
  5. Assemble the burgers: bottom bun; chicken burger; zuchini slice; 1 tbsp bleu cheese; balsamic glaze (to taste); top bun.
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Hank Daddy's Barbecue Pulled Pork Parfait

I've been going to the Barrie Auto Flea Market with my uncle for nearly 30 years now (with the occasional year or trip missed).

Historically, food at this event is pretty terrible. Carnival grade burgers, hot dogs, fries and pizza was about it for years, until a couple years ago. When it's lunch-time, we now go to Hank Daddy's Barbecue.

Hank Daddy's offers pulled pork sandwiches, barbecued chicken sandwiches, smoked sausages and sides of baked beans, mashed potatoes and cole slaw. They make their own barbecue sauce and sell it by the bottle.

The kitchen/trailer was bustling and there was a decent line. It's not the fastest moving line, but it's absolutely worth it.

Oh, I forgot to mention one other item on their menu - they also off the pulled pork parfait. I just had to try it. So I did:

Did I mention that this is the small-sized
pulled pork parfait?
The pulled pork parfait is a work of barbecue art. For $6, you get a layer of pulled pork, barbecue sauce, mashed potatoes, more barbecue sauce, a second layer of pulled pork, more barbecue sauce, another big dollop of mashed potatoes (yes, more barbecue sauce, there's a pattern), a little more pulled pork, sauce, and it's topped off with a few baked beans.

It was great, and it beats the pants off the food offered by other vendors.

If you're interested in cars or flea markets, you can also check the album on my photo blog.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Cottage Baked Potato

Is "awesomest" a word? That describes this potato
happily resting on the vintage cottage plate.

Spending a week at a rented cottage, I figured that food blogging was going to be out of the question. I didn't have my toolbox with my knives and basic cooking utensils (big mistake, by the way), and it'd be mostly basic barbecues, sandwiches, etc.

Meredith has very few rules for camping and cottaging, but one of them is "there must be bacon!" I'm not a big breakfast eater, so I had planned our fry-up for a dinner instead, one of the few times I wouldn't be using the barbecue for dinner. I had also brought up some potatoes hoping that I'd be able to bake them in a fire (probably not happening based on my most fire attempt).

Just before we left, I saw a great recipe from Chef Amos Miller on Cook, Eat, Share. It's his introduction that really caught my attention: "This is so simple, you'll laugh. It tastes so good, you'll cry." He wasn't exaggerating. Such little effort for such flavour. Oh, yum.

The trick was to stuff a potato with butter and something else, top it off with some bacon, wrap it, and bake it. Facing those potatoes and some extra bacon, I realized that I had an opportunity. I tried to be good and substituted the butter for margarine (Chef Miller would be disappointed) and switched the spices to what's available, but I think the idea of the recipe is to really add what flavouring you have on hand, as long as it includes bacon.

Cottage Baked Potatoes

4 russet potatoes, washed
2-4 tbsp butter or margarine
4 garlic cloves, peeled
salt and pepper
2 strips (rashers) bacon, cut in half
  1. Preheat oven or grill to 450-degrees or preheat grill.
  2. Using a chef's knife, slice the potatoes halfway down, lengthwise and place on two squares of tinfoil.
  3. Twist the knife in the sliced potatoes until you hear a faint cracking, causing the slit to open a bit.
  4. Stuff the thin slices of butter into the slit, or, using a spoon, force the margarine in.
  5. Using the side of the chef's knife blade, flatten the garlic cloves and shove one into each potato.
  6. Sprinkle each potato with salt and pepper.
  7. Top potatoes lengthwise with 1/2 slice of bacon.
  8. Wrap potatoes and bake or grill for one hour.
Inspired by Amos Miller's A Baked Potato Recipe.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Israeli Salad

For a family gathering, I decided to make some shawarama and salads. Not wanting to make a regular lettuce salad, and not wanting to chop up a ton of parsley for tabouli, I decided to make an Israeli salad.

Now I must admit, this is a slight variation on the traditional Israeli salad that only contains cucumber and tomatoes, however, the variations are still within the boundaries of acceptable salad. The big difference, however, is in the preparation. Apparently, it's a big contest as to who can chop their vegetables smaller. The smaller the vegetables, the more fancy-pants the salad. I just didn't have the time or the will to to that, so mine is in more reasonable chunks. I'm not going to get worked up about it.

Israeli Salad

2 cucumbers, seeded and diced
2 red peppers, seeded and diced
3 medium-large tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 vidalia onion, diced
2-4 tbsp mint, chopped
1 tsp sumac (substitute ½ tsp salt if not available)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
  1. combine all ingredients and toss
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Friday, September 2, 2011

Japanese Restaurant-inspired Salad Dressing

Not feeling terribly well at the end of July, I started to get lazy about dinner. I had a complete disaster trying to make a curry sauce for pasta (I'll try it again another time with different ingredients). The following day, I was in no mood to experiment.

Dinner was a simple salad and some fried vegetables with egg. I did, however, need a salad dressing. I had put off making it for a couple days and just did without the salad. I had seen a variation of one of my "Asian style" dressings and combined it with my own recipe. The result was tasty and different from what I usually make.

Japanese Restaurant-inspired Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp ginger powdered
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree.

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