Creole Okra with Chicken and Tomatoes

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I don’t really know that much about southern food except that I like it a lot, and whenever I’m down south (I’m talking the southern US states here) I eat as much of it as I can. This dish started because I found okra at a good price at the grocery store and is more Creole-inspired than actually authentic (because again I don’t know much). It is adapted from something I found on The Kitchn. I doubled the amounts, prepared half this recipe in the pan and then chucked half of it in the freezer for later, like the clever person that I am†. Not that this recipe isn’t dead simple. I’m just lazy.

Okra Chicken Tomatoes 1

I accompanied this one-dish meal with another dish: steamed beet greens.

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Zest 1 lemon.

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Gather your spices. Creole spice blends tend to run to mixtures of the following, so make one to suit your own taste (this one is about 1 teaspoon of each): onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, parsley, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne. The recipe I was looking at didn’t use creole spices; instead it called for a bit of cumin and coriander. So I just used everything. Set that aside for a few minutes.

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Start with your okra, about 1lb, and slice the tops off before cutting it in half lengthwise. Apparently people either love or hate okra, because it’s a bit slimy. I am ambivalent so far.

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Lay that on your baking sheet and sprinkle with about 1 cup (canned/drained/rinsed) black-eyed peas.

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Next, slice up a small white onion.

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Sprinkle that onto the pan, together with a few cloves crushed or minced garlic.

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Give that a good drizzle with some nice olive oil.

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Now here’s where I kind of diverged from the recipe. This dish is a good meal all in itself as a vegetarian option, but I feed boys (boys who are not vegetarians) so I had to chuck some meat in here somehow. In a large bowl, I threw 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs together with a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and your lemon zest.

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Then I chucked in all those lovely spices and gave it a good mixing.

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Spread the chicken and tomatoes evenly across the top of your peas and okra and shove it in the oven for about an hour. Give it a stir once or twice to make sure everything is browning evenly.

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We served ours over rice with the beet greens and it was pretty good. The Pie thought the okra was a little slimy (#1 reason why many people dislike it) but I thought it was pretty good!

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If you plan to freeze this recipe for later, I would recommend freezing it in two parts: in one bag goes the okra, peas, garlic, rice, and oil, and in the second bag goes the tomatoes, chicken, and spices. It just seems like a logical thing to do to tenderize the meat and prevent the peas and okra from getting too soggy.

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Tabouleh, Take Two

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Mid-September in Ottawa is when the garden tomato harvest is at its peak.  For as long as my parents have lived in this house, they’ve had more tomato plants and therefore more tomatoes than they really know what to do with.  This year, however, was a different story.  Having spent a large chunk of last winter and spring in Florida, my parents got their plants in too late to have a particularly good yield.  In previous years, my parents have given plants and tomatoes to everyone who will take them.  This year, those recipients are paying them back.  So the next two dishes this week will be tomato based while I try to get the tomatoes used before they go soft.  This is my second tabouleh recipe here on the blog (first one is here), and this one is more or less traditional, though I added a few extra spices just for fun.

Tabouleh Take Two 1

Start with 1 cup bulgur, and about 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Stir those together in a medium-sized bowl.

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Cover the oily bulgur with 2 cups boiling water; give it a stir and set it aside for at least 15 minutes.

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Now grab yourself an enormous hunk of fresh parsley (probably about 2 cups total). We have two kinds in our garden — this fluffy one:

Tabouleh Take Two 2

and this more flat-leaved variety.

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You also want a hunk of fresh mint (about half a cup).  This has seen better days (it was the only survivor of our weed-burning escapade at the back of the house), but it’s still good.

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I was feeling lazy so I chucked all those things in a food processor.

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So much easier than mincing!

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Now comes the annoying part: you have to dice AND SEED all your tomatoes.  If you don’t seed them then your tabouleh will be mushy and that’s just gross.  I used about 10 medium-sized tomatoes for this particular recipe.

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When you’ve got all the tomatoes done, season them with salt and pepper.  I also threw in a dash of ground coriander and another of cayenne.  I figured the coriander is also a parsley sort of thing so it could only boost the flavour.

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Chuck in your other herbs.

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Your bulgur has by now absorbed all the water that it’s going to, so you’re going to need to drain it.

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Use either cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer to get as much water out of it as you can.  I find the cheesecloth helps because I can just pick it up and squeeze it.

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Add the bulgur to your tomato mix and add a few dollops more olive oil.  Stir in lemon juice to taste.

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Serve garnished with a piece of parsley, or stuff a bunch into a pita for a quick snack!

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Gang Keow Wan (Thai Green Curry) with Eggplant and Bamboo

Green Curry

When I was in Ottawa a couple weeks ago, Krystopf and Atlas got takeout one night from a local Thai place.  There was one dish we got, the gang keow wan, that was so good I was determined to see if I could recreate it.  So here’s my best approximation, and it turned out pretty close to the original, minus the disposable aluminum serving dishes.

Get everything ready first, obviously.  The idea behind this is that if everything is sliced super thin and ready to go, the actual cooking of the curry will take less than fifteen minutes from start to finish.  Fantastic for a quick meal, which our Sunday dinners always turn out to be.

Start with your chicken (you can use beef as well, or leave it out for a vegetarian option).

Green Curry

Take 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, slice them into thirds lengthwise, and then slice them up again into thin little pieces.  It’s easiest to do this if the chicken is slightly frozen.

Green Curry

Wrangle yourself a leek.  Just one will do.

Green Curry

Chop off all the dark green stuff, and hack it into thirds.  It goes without saying that you do this with separate implements than you did the chicken, unless you do all the vegetables first and then the chicken last, which is what I usually do.

Green Curry

Cut each of those thirds up into matchsticks.  Remember to rinse off the dirt before you eat them.  If you want to know the real scientific way to clean a whole leek properly (which I forgot about until it was too late) then take a lookie here.

Green Curry

Gather up a handful of hot peppers.  These ones are of the mildest sort, but you can go with whatever floats your boat and suits your fancy.  Cut the tops off, remove the seeds (don’t stick your fingers in your eye, OW OW OW OW OW), and make those into matchsticks as well.

Green Curry

Grab some eggplant.  If you have those tiny Asian ones handy, or baby eggplants, use about five of them.  These are the long thin Italian ones, and I used three.  Slice the tops off and cut them into thin discs.

Green Curry

Bust out some lime leaves (kaffir).

Green Curry

Grab a handful, and, if they’re frozen, let them thaw.  If they’re dried, give them a soak.  If they’re fresh, then you are a lucky person for living in a part of the world where you can get them fresh and you probably don’t need my instructions on how to make a green curry.  Go find something else to do.

Green Curry

When they’re ready, slice out the woody centre stem and chop them up finely.

Green Curry

If you have them handy, like, for instance, you are growing your own indoor herb farm (see tomorrow’s post!), then harvest some fresh cilantro and fresh basil. Chop those babies up as well.

Green Curry

As well, crack open a can of slivered bamboo shoots.

Green Curry

Put them aside with your other fresh stuff.

Green Curry

And you’re going to need an assortment of canned and jarred stuff as well.

Green Curry

In a large, shallow saucepan or deep frying pan, heat up about 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Add to that 3-5 tablespoons green curry paste and 4 teaspoons minced garlic and sauté that at medium heat until the kitchen starts to smell really good.

Green Curry

Add in as well 2 tablespoons each ground cumin and ground coriander and 1 tablespoon powdered stock (chicken, beef, or vegetable — this is optional).  You can add in some salt and pepper as well, if you like.

Green Curry

If you’ve got it, add some lemongrass in as well.  This stuff came in a tube!

Green Curry

Now add in 1 can coconut milk and, if you can get it, 1 can coconut cream (if not just go with two cans of the milk).  Make sure your cream isn’t sweetened before you dump it in.  I discovered that a little too late, so this curry was definitely on the sweet side, but still good.  Now you have this lovely rich greenish brownish soup.

Green Curry

Slide in your chicken slices and the chopped lime leaves and allow to simmer for just a few minutes until the chicken is no longer pink.

Green Curry

Raise the temperature and bring the liquid to a boil after adding all your vegetables.

Green Curry

Allow the vegetables to soften, and the eggplant to go a bit brown.  Then add in your chopped basil and cilantro.

Green Curry

Serve hot over rice, and eat it with a spoon in the traditional way.  I’m having some of the leftovers for lunch today.  I’m rather excited about it.

Green Curry

Making Mincemeat (Outta You)

Mincemeat is to the winter holidays what chocolate and beer are to the Stanley Cup Playoffs (I’m serious.  Cadbury Mini Eggs and a microbrew during the finals is to die for).  Originally a combination of dried fruits, spirits, fat, and meat, over the centuries the meat part has all but disappeared from the recipe, and now it’s more of a dessert type of thing.  It does still employ three of the age-old methods of preserving, however: fat, sugar, and alcohol. 

I have adapted Allora Andiamo’s recipe from Jamie Oliver‘s website and it is incredible.  I quadrupled some things, and other things I just chucked in the amount I had, so it’s not particularly faithful to Ms. Andiamo’s original recipe but I give her full credit.

In a very large bowl I chucked the following, by weight:

275g raisins

55g dried blueberries

475g dried cranberries

575g candied orange peel

250g blanched almond slivers

400g finely chopped marzipan

474g (1lb) shredded butter (put the butter in the freezer, then grate it, or break it into chunks and run it through the food processor until you have fine crumbs)

1kg apples, finely chopped (I left the skins on and used a variety of different kinds, whatever I had lying around)

juice and rind of 5 large oranges

juice and rind of 2 large lemons

1kg soft brown sugar

3 teaspoons almond extract

8 tablespoons rum or brandy (I used both, of course)

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

4 teaspoons ground nutmeg

6 teaspoons ground ginger

4 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

Give that a good stir, cover it, and leave it somewhere to marinate for about 24 hours.

The next day, distribute the mincemeat into casserole dishes (or, if you are clever like me and used a metal bowl, don’t bother), cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 225°F for 3 1/2 hours.

I stirred mine halfway through, just to be thorough.  And also because I don’t trust anything on its own in an oven for three and a half hours.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit.  The liquid will thicken as it cools so make sure to stir it occasionally in order for the syrup to coat all the fruit. 

Before it completely cools, pour into sterilized jars and seal — can according to your canner’s instructions, or check out our tips to canning here.

Store in a cool dark place for about 3 weeks before using. 

Sweet and Sour Pork, Thai Style

This little hummer (to channel my dad) is on page 210 of 400 Recipes: Wok & Stir-Fry edited by Jenni Fleetwood, which I gave the Pie for Christmas years ago.  I also gave him a wok, which has since self-destructed, but enough about that.

We made this recipe precisely because we had exactly those ingredients in our fridge and we needed to use them up.  And I got to use my new scale on this recipe, too, which was a plus.

Slice yourself up 350g/12oz lean pork (about four small boneless porkchops).  If you put the pork into the freezer for about 30-40 minutes beforehand it will be easy to slice it into thin pieces.  I didn’t do this, and that’s why my pork bits are fat.  But they are happy with the way they look, thank you very much.Cut one small red onion into thin slices (we had half, so were content with that).  Seed a red pepper (see my how-to on doing this quickly) and dice it.  Seed half a cucumber (cut it into quarters and slice off the seed part) and cut it into thin strips.  I misread the recipe at this point so mine ended up in chunks.  Pauvre moi.While you’re in the process of seeding, why don’t you take the seeds out of two plum tomatoes (we used roma) and cut them into wedges as well?  As a finishing touch, cut 115g/4oz of pineapple into chunks (more if you like the stuff, see my how-to on coring) and slice 2 spring onions or scallions (we used 4 green onions) into thin strips.  I set all the veggies in a nice mise en place for the Pie so he’d have everything at hand.  In a small bowl, mix together one tablespoon brown sugar with two tablespoons fish sauce and some ground black pepper.Heat two tablespoons oil in a wok or large frying pan.  Drop in four cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (or, if you are us, 4 spoonfuls of garlic in a jar).  Cook over medium heat until golden, then add the pork and stir-fry for four or five minutes.  Slide in the onion slices and toss.

Add your fish sauce mixture and toss over the heat for three or four more minutes.

Drop in your fruits and vegetables and stir-fry for another three to four minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Spoon into a bowl (we served ours over rice) and garnish with more sliced onions or fresh cilantro if that floats your boat.  Serves four.