Monday, 30 April 2012

Fresh Salsa

 I am facinated that people buy Salsa in a jar when it tastes so much better made fresh. You can make this kind of a fresh salsa and there is also a salsa you can make with canned tomatoes when you cannot get a good fresh tomato.For this fresh salsa

You will need:

  • 2 -3 ripe tomatoes- always store on the counter
  • 1 clove garlic -crushed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lime -squeezed fresh
  • 2-3 tbsp white onion- chopped finely
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper -chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped finely
  • salt and pepper

Step 1: start with nice ripe tomatoes. If you can't find any, don't make this recipe until you can. Store your tomatoes on the counter and never put them in the fridge. You can use plum tomatoes. They are usually better because they have less water. These were pipe so I used them.

Step 2: with a sharp knife. I slice my tomatoes and then take those slices a few layers at a time and make small dice.

Step 3: you can add some salt and leave the tomatoes a few minutes, then strain off the water. Some people scoop out the seeds and the wet flesh. I prefer to strain because the salsa stays in nice pieces. Either way is fine.

Step 4: chop onions and crush garlic and add to bowl.

Step 5: chop the jalapeno (ha-la-payn-yo!)and cilantro. Add olive oil, 1/2 lime juiced, salt and pepper and taste it. If you want the second half of the lime add it.

Let sit for 10-15 minutes and serve with chips or put on fish or chicken. Eat it fresh. 

If it gets too watery strain it. I do not like this type of salsa to be kept. It is better to make a small batch fresh than to make too much. It doesn't keep well in the fridge. Tomatoes don't like the fridge so eat it fresh.

way better than store bought!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Beef Stew in Beer Broth and Mushrooms

It was a cold, rainy day near Vancouver and I was hankering for something comforting and warming. I made this beef stew with onions, mushrooms and sweet potatoes. In an hour and a half I had the perfect dinner for me and Big Pete.

You will need:
  • approx 1 pound of stewing beef
  • 1-2 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 6-7 cloves garlic- chopped fine
  • 1 onion- chopped
  • 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp dry porcini- powder (you can make this from dried porcini mushrooms)
  • 1 can beer
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp fresh red chili-chopped fine (my chili is medium hot add less if its hot hot!)
  • 1 tsp salt/pepper each
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 1 grated apple
  • 1 sweet potato (don't call it a YAM-see the link to show how most people think a sweet potato is a yam )
  • 1 package sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp butter-room temp and 1 tbsp flour mixed
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
This is the perfect size for 2 people with leftovers for another lunch.

I guess that technically makes it the perfect dish for 3-4 people then. Huh?

Step 1: start with a good quality stewing beef. I buy from my favourite local butcher. 

Step 2: I like to chop up the meat into small chunks. Dry meat with paper towels. 

Step 3: coat meat in flour and pepper (add salt after its browned) The flour helps it stay dry to brown and also helps to thicken your sauce after.

Step 4: brown meat on med-high heat. Allow a separation of the meat and do not crowd so that meat will brown. I have the pan almost too full but, it did brown perfectly in then end. If you put too much meat in the pan it will steam and never fry to get brown. It may be necessary to do this in a few batches.  Remove meat from pan and set aside when done.

Step 5: turn down heat to medium and add onions. Scrape off the crunchy fond on the bottom of the pan. That is all flavour and your future sauce. Cook 3-4 minutes until just starting to brown.

Step 6: add a small amount of beer and scrape off all remaining bits on the bottom of pan. Then add remaining beer. 

Step 7: add garlic, chopped chilies, chili flakes, Italian seasoning, paprika, salt and porchini powder (I just take dried porchinis and make them into dust in a coffee grinder) Cook covered 1 hour on medium-low. Stir from time to time and add more water if it gets too dry (or you could also add more beer)

Step 8: after 1 hour add grated apple, sliced mushrooms and chopped sweet potato (you could also use a regular potato if you prefer. Cook for another 1/2 hour on a med/ low gentle simmer. Just let it blip away.

Step 9: After 1 1/2 hours of cooking mix 1 tbsp of butter with 1 tbsp flour and stir. Stir into your stew. Cook another 5 minutes. Taste it. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Step 10: top with parsley and serve in big bowls with crusty bread and an ice cold beer.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Bulgur Wheat Salad - two ways

Bulgur is Toasted Cracked Wheat. It makes a crunchy salad and stores well in the fridge for a few days. I have made two salads with simple ingredients.

You will Need:

Salad #1

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 lemon zested, then juiced
  • 1 clove garlic- crushed or chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh red chili -chopped fine
  • 2 stalks celery- chopped fine
Salad #2
  • all above ingredients plus
  • 1/2 apple sliced thin-skin on
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 dried cranberries- chopped fine

Step 1: in a small bowl add dry bulgur wheat and boiling water. Stir and cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.

Step 2: After 30 minutes the water will all be absorbed into the wheat. Add the wheat to a larger bowl.

Step 3: zest then juice the lemon into the bowl. Chop parsley, garlic, red chili and celery. Add them to the bowl. Add olive oil  and taste. If you need more olive oil or lemon add some. 

I served this salad on Bibb lettuce with a drizzle of really good olive oil and salt and pepper.

Salad #2 The second salad adds a few more ingredients. Some slices of apple, some chopped dried cranberries and some cider vinegar. The cider vinegar along with the lemon is really nice because it's sweet and tart.

Finish with a drizzle of good olive oil, salt and pepper.

It stores well in the fridge for a few days. When serving it after being in the fridge you can refresh the salad by adding a bit more lemon or/and a bit more oil.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Pearl Couscous and Red Pepper Salad

When I am busy gardening or outside playing all day this is the kind of thing I love for a quick dinner.  Pearl Couscous or Israeli Couscous is a round pasta that you would cook just like any other pasta. I like to cook it Al Dente which means there is still a bit of tooth to it. I have also shredded some red pepper and added  fresh mozzarella cubes (more like rectangles!) and it is served on some soft Bibb lettuce.

You will Need:

  • 1 cup pearl couscous 
  • 1 clove garlic- crushed/chopped fine
  • 1/2 red pepper -grated on a box grater
  • 1 tbsp fresh red chili chopped finely (any kind you like mine is medium heat)
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 lime - juiced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella or bocconcini -chopped in cubes
  • 1 tbsp cilantro/parsley- finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  •  Bibb lettuce (or any other soft leaf lettuce)

Step 1: in a large saucepan add 3 cups water (you can also use chicken or vegetable broth) Boil water and add enough salt to make the water taste like the sea. Add couscous and boil for 10 -12 minutes until cooked. It should still have a bit of chew to the centre when cooked. I find Israeli couscous in my health food store but, you can find it in better grocery stores. (we ain't there just yet in my area!)

Step 2: once cooked strain and let cool slightly in a medium sized bowl. Add a few tbsp of olive oil to coat and separate the pasta.

Step 3: add all your ingredients. I like to grate the sweet red pepper on a box grater and if I do it flat I can  grate the soft inside flesh and throw away the skin. Chop chili pepper, garlic and cilantro/parsley finely. Juice lime and add more oil if too dry. Chop fresh mozzarella and add salt and pepper. Taste it. If you need to add more lime, add it. (some limes are more dry than others. Just like people!)

Serve on top of some Bibb lettuce and you have a great dinner. 

This little unassuming pasta salad is surprisingly filling and satisfying.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Coconut Banana Cream Pie with Rum Cream

This pie is decadent!
It's coconut custard with a bottom layer of caramelized bananas and just a breath of chocolate on the crust. Then it is all topped off with rum whipped cream and toasted coconut.

There are lots of steps but you can make the pie one day and them top and serve the following. 

You will Need:

  • 1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 6 tbsp butter- melted
  • 1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
Chocolate Layer
  • 1/3 cup melted chocolate
Banana Layer
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 sliced bananas
  • 2 tbsp rum (I used my homemade rum infused with vanilla beans- see other post on how to make)
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
Coconut Filling
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp minute tapioca
  • pinch salt
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 egg yolks (save and freeze the whites!)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (any kind you like)
Rum Whipped Cream
  • 1 cup whipping cream (this is the smallest sized container)
  • 2 tbsp vanilla sugar
  • 1 tbsp rum
  • 1 tbsp powdered milk (this will stabilize the whipped cream- you don't have to use it if you plan on eating the pie right away but it is helpful if you want pie to keep a day or two after)

* you also need a removable bottom tart pan or a glass pie plate.

Step 1: I like to line a removable tart pan with parchment paper. I just fold over the extra paper and place back in the tin. You do not need to do this however, it allows you to easily slide the entire pie off of the bottom once its chilled and ready to serve. I can then put it on a serving platter and not worry about cutting the slices on my pan.

Step 2: prepare crust in a medium bowl. Add graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut, melted butter and sugar. Mix until resembles wet sand.

Step 3: press into pan using a measuring cup -this makes a nice smooth even crust.

Step 4: Carefully lift pie by the sides of the pan (or the crust will fall out!) and put onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes until the butter melts and the crust sets. Remove and set aside.

Step 5: melt any good quality chopped dark chocolate in a small bowl which will entirely cover a pot of simmering water. Do not let any water get into the chocolate or it will seize up and not get liquid. You can also melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in 20 second increments. I stir after each 20 seconds until liquid. This amount takes about 3or4  20 second increments in the microwave to melt completely. This method avoids cooking it too quickly in the microwave and burning.

Step 6: pour liquid on crust and use a small spatula to spread it evenly. It should be a very small amount to just barely taste at the bottom of the pie. Once it cools it will harden. This layer also prevents the crust from getting soggy once the bananas are put on.

Step 7: prepare the banana layer. Slice bananas (not too ripe) and measure ingredients. In a saute pan melt butter and brown sugar until sugar has dissolved. Add rum and bananas. Toss to coat and remove from heat.

Step 8: pour evenly over the chocolate layer on crust. Tilt pan to allow the liquid to evenly coat into the corners.

Step 9: prepare coconut custard filling. In a heavy pot add sugar. cornstarch, minute tapioca, salt. Turn on heat to medium and add coconut milk, egg yolks. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Once it boils it will thicken. This may take 4-5 minutes do not walk away and leave it. Once it boils cook 30 seconds and remove from heat. Add butter, shredded coconut, vanilla and coconut extracts.

Step 10: pour on to crust and spread evenly. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of hot custard and let cool to room temperature. Cool completely in fridge at least 5 hours -or you can leave it to serve the following day.

Step 11: once the pie has cooled. Lift removable bottom from sides and unfold the parchment paper. Carefully loosen bottom from paper with a spatula knife and slide onto serving platter.

Step 12: whip cream with sugar(I used my homemade vanilla sugar), powdered milk and rum until stiff enough to make a peak. The dry milk will stabilize the cream. 

Step 13: toast a few tbsp coconut in a pan on stove (watch it- it will burn!) If you have a fresh coconut this is the place the make some nice curls with a peeler and toast.

Slather on the cream, top with the toasted coconut and serve.
One bite lets you know it was worth every bit of effort!