Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Hamper Of Cucumbers?

I ordered a hamper of dill cucumbers on the weekend from a local berry farm.  I had no idea what a "hamper" meant, but I envisioned a bucket of some description.  Wrong!  It was a large, cardboard box, roughly the size of my stovetop.  OMG!  What the heck was I going to do with all of those cucumbers?

The first day I decided to make dill pickles.  I enlisted some helpers, got all the canning stuff out, bought a case of mason jars, refreshed my memory on safe canning practices, and got to work.  After about 4 hours we had 12x500ml jars and 4x1 litre jars, and still roughly half the cucumbers left.  I managed to find spots for them all in the fridge, so headed off to Toronto the next morning for a day of pre-season figure skating competition.

Yesterday we had no choice but to tackle the cucumbers again.  I bought more jars, more vinegar, and some sugar, and we started on sweet, bread & butter pickles this time.  12x500 ml jars later, we went back to dill for a while, then called it quits.  I have enough pickles to feed an army.  But I still have cucumbers left.  What to make with them?

439.  Greek Salad (Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes, page 238) recipe

The key to this salad is fresh ingredients.  I have those!  The garden tomatoes are finally ripening (all at once), and the herbs are loving the cooler weather right now.  It's been a while since I had a nice, big salad for dinner, so this recipe fit the bill.

I got out two large bowls, so that I could tailor the salads to our individual likes and dislikes.  I had some romaine lettuce that I wanted to use, so even though it wasn't called for, I figured it would bulk out the salads a bit.  I selected my two ripest red tomatoes, and a variety of purple & yellow cherry tomatoes.  I sliced four dill cucumbers, but also used some of the bits & pieces from the food processor that were rejected while pickle making.  I picked fresh dill & mint from the garden, and finely sliced a bit of red onion.  I didn't have a green pepper, so I substituted a red pepper, and sliced it into half rounds.  I had to skip olives since I didn't have any (for the basic reason that I don't like them).

I put a touch of Jamie's Chianti red wine vinegar in each bowl, drizzled with EVOO, and tossed.  I garnished each salad with a chunk of feta cheese, and sprinkled with dried oregano.  We crumbled the feta prior to eating, and dug right in.  I haven't enjoyed a salad this much in a long, long time.  I found it very satisfying, and I most likely will have another tonight!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Roasted Veg Vindaloo with Golden Gnarly Chicken Skewers

I went to see a naturopathic doctor this week, and she recommended that I eat a diet high in liver boosting foods, due to poor digestion.  On that list are bitter greens, beets, cruciferous vegetables, and turmeric.  Coincidentally, I had already planned this next meal!

I thought I'd covered every type of curry, but apparently never a vindaloo.  Jamie always seems to come up with something new for me to try.  He describes this recipe as a "standout" vegetarian curry with a meat "kicker" for any non-veggies at the table (which was perfect for my needs).  He was inspired to create this one when in Leeds visiting the Goan community.  I looked up the Leeds episode of Jamie's Great Britain, but unfortunately it only features the Jewish and Iranian communities.  I'd love to see the footage that got left on the cutting room floor! 

438.  Roasted Veg Vindaloo with Golden Gnarly Chicken Skewers (Jamie Oliver's Great Britain, page 142) recipe

For the full recipe click above, but I thought I'd list the ingredients for the curry paste, because they are quite unique.

  • 1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 heaped tablespoon each of turmeric and garam masala
  • 2 heaped tablespoons raisins
  • 1 level teaspoon each of sea salt and cumin
  • 1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 dried red chillies
  •  A bunch of fresh coriander, leaves picked
  • 1 red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 200ml (7fl oz) white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons each of Worcestershire sauce and rapeseed or olive oil

  • My daughter refused to eat this because it contains onions and cilantro.  I didn't think the recipe would stand up without them, so we compromised by making some of the chicken skewers with a simple tandoori marinade instead.

    For the veggie curry, I had a huge head of cauliflower that I got at the farmer's market, but it also calls for some combination of peas, corn, broad beans and spinach.  I decided to make use of my garden and include my rainbow beans and chard instead.

    I threw all the ingredients for the curry paste into the blender.  Half went to marinating the chicken for about an hour, and the other half was mixed through the cauliflower and onion, which was then roasted for 40 minutes with a bit of water.  Once that came back up to the stovetop, I added some blitzed tomatoes, veggie stock and a can of chick peas and let it simmer away.  I got my chicken breast strips threaded onto the skewers and attempted to grill them, but the pan was too small, and not much of the chicken actually came in contact with the heat.  The parts that did burnt quickly.

    I decided to balance the skewers across a rectangular cake pan instead, and put them under the broiler.  Had I been thinking in advance, I would have started the BBQ (which might have been even better).

    In the last few minutes of the cooking time, I added my chopped beans and chard to the curry pot, until soft.

    The skewers came out golden and gnarly, as described.  My son made off with two of them, burning his fingers in the process, and reported that they tasted "just like the chicken satay skewers at Ben Thanh" (a local Viet-Thai restaurant).  That is high praise indeed!

    I stirred some non-fat yogurt through the curry prior to serving, and sprinkled with the cilantro leaves.  I made a big pot of basmati rice to serve with it.   I found the flavour really different to anything I've had before....I think it's the amount of white wine vinegar.  "Vin" = vinegar and "loo" = garlic apparently.  I wouldn't say it was my favourite (that still is Keralan curry), but it was tasty and there are a lot of left overs, although I halved the recipe.  Only the vegetarian and I ate the curry....the other two picky eaters ate chicken and rice with soy sauce.  :p

    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

    Tuesday Meal Planning

    I'm a bit late with this post but I just couldn't wrap my head around meal planning yesterday.  I went home from work with the intention of making a vegetarian curry, but my daughter came over and I ended up boiling corn on the cob and pan-frying more of those wonderful Jamie Oliver Fully Loaded Chicken Burgers instead, served with sliced garden tomatoes.   It was a quick and easy meal that satisfied everyone.

    Tonight I'm going to an early showing of the Hundred Foot Journey, so my plan is to make myself a quick Greek Toastie with more of the lovely, ripening garden tomatoes that I've waited so long for.  I have to be sure to pick them as soon as they ripen, or I run the risk of my adorable but pesky, tomato-loving dogs getting to them first.  :p

    Of course, I know I'm going to come home with an incredible craving for Indian food, so tomorrow I plan to attempt a recipe from Jamie's Great Britain:  Roasted Veg Vindaloo with Golden Gnarly Chicken Skewers.  No doubt I'll be eating left overs for at least Thursday and probably Friday as well, but that's ok! 

    Sunday, August 10, 2014

    Breakfast Pancakes with Grated Pear

    Some mornings, you just feel like pancakes.  Especially on the weekend. Today was one of those days.  This incredible farmer's market honey was staring at me from the counter, just begging me to use it on something!

    So I remembered this recipe from last year's Jamie Family Christmas special.
    437.  Breakfast Pancakes (packed with grated pear) (Jamie's Family Christmas)
    This is very similar to the one-cup pancake recipe I've been using, except for the addition of the grated pear.  I just so happened to have one lonely pear on the counter, so it was perfect.  I made my usual batter of equal parts self-raising flour & milk, added an egg, whisked it until smooth, and stirred the pear through.  These will have the added benefit of extra fibre, thanks to the last of the nutri-flour blend.

    I can never resist the urge to shower the pancakes with berries, when they're in season.  As always, I topped mine with natural yogurt, and this time sweetened them with honey rather than maple syrup.  What a treat!

    Sobey's Zesty Salmon Burgers

    Jamie Oliver Discovers Canada:  Moist & Flaky Zesty Salmon Burgers (Chunks of salmon spiced with jalapeno pepper & lime)

    Sobey's product page

    Text on inside of cardboard wrapper:  “Get some sunshine inside you with these amazing sustainable Canadian Atlantic salmon burgers. We’ve mixed up chunky flakes of fresh salmon with jalapeƱo, a good squeeze of zingy lime and some aromatic thyme to make a carnival of a burger. It’s a quick, delicious way to enjoy salmon, perfect for summer and brilliant on the barbecue.”

    I picked these up at Sobey's last week when I was on a bit of a tear, and threw them in the freezer.  Tonight I felt like having one for dinner.

    Ingredients:  Atlantic salmon, red bell peppers, panko bread crumbs, lime juice, green onions, thyme, salt, spices, roasted garlic, jalapeno pepper powder, lime oil.

    I was able to remove one patty from the package while still frozen, and put the other back.  I let it sit out for an hour or so to thaw a bit, then pan fried it with a bit of olive oil until cooked through.

    It was definitely zesty!  Quite spicy, but it paired well with my plain, baked sweet potato and homemade coleslaw, which are both fairly bland.  I got the jalapeno and lime loud and clear, but also a nice, flavourful mixture of herbs and spices and juicy salmon.

    Nutritional Info:
    200 calories
    8 g fat
    60 mg cholesterol
    420 mg sodium
    540 mg potassium
    3 g carbs
    27 g protein
    4% iron

    I got a surprise when a friend texted me yesterday and sent me a picture of a product she'd found discounted at Winner's.

    Perfect timing as I'm completely out of red & white wine vinegar, and almost to the end of my balsamic.  These JO versions are usually fairly pricey, so this was a great deal.  Thanks, Lisa!

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

    Grilled Zucchini Salad

    I was flipping through one of Jamie's early cookbooks the other day....I like to read them to see the differences in his style of cooking from then to now, to read his funny stories, and most of all because the recipes are really, really good.  I was struck by the vivid colours and textures in this image and knew I had to try this recipe one day.  Then today, he used this exact picture in a tweet, and that sealed the deal.

    436.  Zucchini Salad with Mint, Garlic, Red Chilli, Lemon and Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Happy Days With the Naked Chef, page 96)
    I went out and picked a medium-sized yellow zucchini from the garden after work, and tried my best to thinly slice it.  No mandolin for me, thanks.  I've already lost the tip of one finger, and that scarred me for life.  I can't even watch chefs on TV use a mandolin, I have to cover my eyes.  It's bad.
    I got my griddle pan on a high heat, and put the slices in to char.  I found they stuck a bit, especially any pieces with little seeds in the middle, but I persevered.  Once done, I removed them to a baking sheet to cool in a single layer.  I was advised to season them while they were still warm.
    I've had this JO salt grinder in the cupboard for a while now, so tonight seemed like a good night to break the seal.  I seasoned my zucchini with pink Himalayan sea salt and black pepper, then sprinkled it with chopped red chili and minced garlic, from a height. 

    To dress the salad, I squeezed over some lemon juice and drizzled with some EVOO.  Then I remembered the mint!  I ran out to the garden and picked a few leaves, finely chopped them, and sprinkled them over the top.

    I had a hard time not eating this entire salad before the rest of my dinner was ready, it was so good.  I cooked some cranberry beans and defrosted a filet of trout, which I quickly pan-fried.   Then I sat down and had a little feast. 

    I didn't think charring the zucchini would make that much of a difference but it really did give it a nice flavour.  I'll have to add this salad to my repertoire of ways to eat zucchini.  It comes in handy at this time of year!

    Tuesday, August 5, 2014

    I love short weeks!

    Would it be wrong to just eat variations on pasta for the rest of the week?  I thought so.  I'll try to be good.  At least not bad.  I still have some left over zucchini & bread soup to eat for lunch, and I picked enough cranberry beans on the weekend to make another batch of Humble Home Cooked Beans.  I also plowed through my herb patch and, using little brown paper lunch bags, have two bags of parsley and four bags of sage drying for the winter.  I kept the basil fresh, though, and made a batch of Sicilian pesto with the first of my ripe tomatoes.

    I'm a day late but yesterday was a civic holiday around these parts, and we had a smorgasbord of options for dinner, trying to clear out the fridge: JFC & sweet potato fries, Tony Roma's ribs from Stu's birthday, linguine with pesto, boiled corn-on-the-cob, zucchini bread, tofu cheesecake, and Mel's carrot cake. So much food, so little room in my stomach.  Here's my plan for this week's dinners:

    Tuesday - left over JFC/fries/corn (aqua zumba night)
    Wednesday - pan fried trout with rainbow coleslaw (cabbage, carrots, beets)
    Thursday - pesto pasta with sauteed mushrooms & zucchini
    Friday - JO salmon burgers from Sobey's (this time I made sure to get the zesty ones!)

    Of course, none of this will go over with the kid, so who knows what else I'll be cooking.  He's a bit helpless at the moment as he's thrown out his back and can hardly move, so I'll probably take pity on him.  I see frozen burgers and Kraft Dinner in my future (just not in my stomach!)