Sunday, May 4, 2014

Thai Shrimp & Scallop Soup

Every time I taste Thai food, I’m always surprised that it still tastes incredibly exotic to me.  It’s freshness, pungency, heat, and flavour combinations are far removed from the temperate-climate food most Anglo Canadians were raised on.

This restorative soup is a perfect example of how you can create authentic tastes without having to buy specialty products.  Lemon grass and lime leaves are easily replaced by lemon slices and lime zest.  No coconut milk?  Try using evaporated milk; the end results are very similar.  

You can also use 2/3 lb shrimp instead of the shrimp and scallop combination if you wish.

3-1/2 c low-sodium chicken stock
2 thin slices lemon
Zest of half a lime
1 T slivered garlic
1 T slivered ginger
½ t sugar
2 t fish sauce
1/8 to ¼ t hot pepper flakes
1/3 lb cleaned shell-on shrimp
1/3 lb bay scallops
1 green onion, cut in half lengthwise then cut into 1” pieces
Handful grape tomatoes, quartered (optional)
1/2 c coconut milk (or evaporated milk)
Juice of half a lime
Chopped cilantro (optional)

Shell shrimp, reserving shells & tails.  In a medium saucepan, combine chicken stock and shrimp shells.  Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for five minutes.  Remove shells from stock.  Add the lemon slices, lime zest, garlic, ginger, sugar, fish sauce and pepper flakes to the hot stock.  Cover, and allow to infuse off heat for 30 minutes.  Remove lemon slices.

Bring stock back to the boil; add the shrimp, scallops, green onion and tomatoes (if using).  Return to the boil and immediately remove from heat.  Stir through the coconut milk and lime juice.  Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.  Serves two generously.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Asian Salmon Cakes

Hot, sour, salty, sweet.  They're all covered here, and the result is delicious.

213 g can sockeye salmon, drained and flaked
1 t minced ginger
1 t sugar
1 T soy sauce
¼ t sesame oil
1 t prepared hot mustard
1 T lime juice
1-2 green onions, sliced (depending on size)
Small handful chopped cilantro
Sprinkle white pepper
1 egg
1/3 c panko breadcrumbs

Combine all in bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. 

Form into two patties.  Cook in frying pan with 2 t vegetable oil over medium heat until nicely browned on both sides. 

Excellent served with stir-fried broccoli.

Baked Rice Pilaf

Years ago, a group of awkward twenty-somethings got together for a pot luck meal at a friend’s house.  My job was to bring a rice dish, and I opted for a baked pilaf.  The rice was nothing short of phenomenal, but the recipe disappeared shortly thereafter into oblivion. 

Since then, I’ve scoured countless recipe books and websites in the hope of finding the exact recipe, to no avail.  Here’s my best attempt at recreating it, which I must say, is excellent.  

1 t vegetable oil
½ lb / 227 g mushrooms, diced (optional)
1 T butter
1 small onion, diced
1 c converted rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-3/4 c chicken stock
¼ t dried thyme
¼ t salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 c frozen peas (optional)

Lightly grease an 8 X 8 glass dish & set aside.

If using mushrooms, sauté in the vegetable oil over medium heat, stirring often, until they’ve released all their liquid.  Tip mushrooms into glass dish.

In the same saucepan, sauté the onion in the butter over medium heat, until onion begins to brown.  Add the rice, stirring well to coat the rice.  Continue to cook, stirring often, until rice begins to brown slightly.  Add garlic, stirring for 30 seconds or so.  Add contents to glass dish.  Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper.  Add peas, if using.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in the same saucepan, and pour over the rice mixture.  Stir to combine, cover with foil, and bake in a preheated 350o oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, and allow to sit for 10 minutes undisturbed.  Remove foil, fluff with fork, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Asian-Style Chicken Noodle Soup

The clean, fresh flavours of this soup have restorative properties for me.  This is what I crave to counteract the gastronomic over indulgences otherwise know as 'weekends'. 

900 ml low-sodium chicken stock
1 T lime juice
1 t soy sauce
¼ t sesame oil
1 T fish sauce
227 g mushrooms, sliced
6 baby bok choy, or one smallish regular bok choy, rinsed well and diced
2 t sugar
1 T julienned ginger
200 g rice noodles
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs, fully cooked & diced
Cilantro, chopped

Combine the first nine ingredients in a Dutch oven or large pot.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.

Cook the noodles according to directions on package.  Divide the hot noodles between the two bowls and top with the diced chicken.  Ladle the simmering soup over, and top with cilantro.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chicken 'n Collard Greens

Collards are my favourite leafy green.  Unlike most greens, they require a fairly substantial amount of cooking to make them digestible.  Collards and chicken are best friends, and this recipe is how I serve them most often.

To prepare collards, cut out the stalk from each leaf.  Stack the leaves, roll them tightly into a cigar shape, and cut them crosswise into half-centimeter ribbons.  Rinse well with water, and drain thoroughly.

2 t vegetable oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt & pepper to taste
1 bunch collards, prepared as above
Seasoned salt to taste
1 T white vinegar
1 c chicken stock

In Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken thighs with salt, pepper and anything else which strikes your fancy.  Brown the chicken thighs well on both sides, then remove to plate and pop in refrigerator.

Drain any excess fat.  Reduce heat to medium, and add collards, followed by seasoned salt, vinegar and chicken stock.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 1 hr and 15 minutes, stirring regularly.  Add more chicken stock if necessary.

At the 1 hr and 15 minute mark, lay the chicken thighs on top of the collards, cover and allow the chicken to heat through for 15 minutes.  Serves 2.

In the South, the leftover liquor in the pan would be sopped up with cornbread.  I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds absolutely delicious.

Pork Bomb

If you're a bonafide pork lover like I am, this dish is Nirvana.  Pork loin, ham, sausage meat and bacon all wrapped up in one tidy bundle.  This can be done either in the oven or on the grill; if using a grill, use indirect heat with a drip pan.

The pork cut in the recipe may or may not be available to you.  If not, you can substitute a large pork tenderloin of about 1-1/2 lbs.

12 thick slices bacon
1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 lb thinly-sliced ham, proscuitto, Parma or Serrano ham
1 boneless pork loin centre roast, well seasoned with freshly ground black pepper

On a large cutting board, weave the 12 slices of bacon; 6 horizontally X 6 vertically.

Using your hands, spread out the sausage meat as evenly as possible over the bacon.  Next, cover the sausage meat with the ham of your choice, overlapping the pieces slightly.  Lastly, place the pork roast along an edge of the bacon concoction, and roll until roast is enveloped. Secure the closure with toothpicks, and place on a rack in a roasting pan, seam side down.

Roast in a preheated 350 degree oven until the pork reaches 160 degrees. Allow to sit, covered, for 15 minutes before carving.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cuban Beans & Rice

Cuba is one of my favourite places in the world.  It's rolling landscapes, warm people and stunning beaches are the reason we've visited no fewer than ten times, and we aim to continue doing so.

Food in Cuba often gets a bad rap, but we've always enjoyed it thoroughly.  Black beans and rice (or Moros y Cristianos as it's called in Cuba) is a staple food found throughout Latin America.  It's no small wonder this dish is so popular - inexpensive, highly nutritious (beans and rice combined are a complete protein) and satisfyingly filling.

Here's my version, which in my opinion, tastes accurately authentic.

1 T vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced (red, green, or combination)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c converted rice
1 19 oz can black beans, undrained
1-1/3 c chicken stock or water
3/4 t cumin
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t salt
1 bay leaf

In medium saucepan over medium-low heat, add oil, followed by the onion, bell pepper and garlic.  Saute until soft.

Add the rice, beans, stock or water, cumin, oregano, salt and bay leaf.  Stir well.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 20 minutes undisturbed.  Remove from heat, and allow to sit for ten minutes.  Fluff with fork and serve.