Slapdash Souvlaki

May was an INTENSE month here at the Ali Does It household. LongJohn went to daycare a month earlier than scheduled and I had a whole four weeks to get all the stuff done on the house I hadn’t had an opportunity to do when we moved in … because of the whole having-a-baby thing. Some of those projects are still in progress but I have SO MUCH to show you when they’re ready to be shown. If May was intense, then June is even more so. I went back to work full time AT A NEW JOB. And on my first day, I had HAND surgery. Today I’m having hand surgery on the OTHER hand. So things are a little nuts, to say the least. Luckily I have a bit of a backlog of posts for you guys. Let’s start with this one for the barbecue, now that we’re officially into grilling season.

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The Pie is a huge fan of souvlaki. We’re fortunate that some of the best souvlaki in town is only a short drive away. But it’s actually pretty easy to make your own souvlaki at home, provided you have some time to prep. Here’s how you can do it.

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First, let’s start with that most essential of condiments: tzatziki. You can always buy this but it’s easy to make as well. I rarely measure my amounts because I find they vary depending on my mood but here’s an approximation for you. Start off by grabbing about 1/2 cup plain yogurt and plopping it in a few layers of cheesecloth in a colander. Wrap it well and put something with a bit of weight on top. Place the colander over a bowl and shove it in the fridge for a few hours. I use Balkan style yogurt for this, but if you have Greek yogurt you can skip this step.

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After your yogurt has been pressed and some of the water has drained out, you can unwrap it and give the cheesecloth a bit of a rinse. You’re going to need it in a second.

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Grate up about half a cucumber. Plop the cucumber bits onto the cheesecloth, wrap it up, and give it a good squeeze over the sink and get rid of excess water.

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Now, tip that into a bowl together with the yogurt, some minced garlic, chopped fresh dill, salt, pepper, a few drops of lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Stir, stir, stir! Shove that back in the fridge for a few hours (preferably overnight) to let the flavours mingle.

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For the souvlaki we’re going to create a marinade. Start by finely chopping up a small red onion. I’m being smart here and using a large red onion because I’m making the recipe twice and chucking half of it in the freezer.

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Throw the onion bits in a large Ziploc freezer bag and tip in about 1/2 cup olive oil,

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2 tablespoons red wine vinegar,

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and 4 tablespoons lemon juice.

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Next plop in about 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 teaspoons dried (or fresh) oregano, and of course salt and pepper to taste.

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Wrangle yourself a decent-sized pork tenderloin (you can do this with chicken breast too). Don’t be tempted to use a pork shoulder or any other cut for this, as they’ll be too gristly when cubed. Trust me. I did it once when they were on sale and I regretted it. Pull the tough membrane off the tenderloin and trim any excess fat.

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Cut it into cubes.

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Chuck those cubes into your freezer bag.

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Seal the bag carefully, give it a good smushing together, and bung it in the fridge for several hours. While you’re waiting, grab some wooden skewers and plop them in a tray of water to soak for at least thirty minutes before you grill.

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When you’re set to start, shove the cubes of marinated meat onto your skewers (I like to use two skewers per so that they’re easier to flip) and grill until cooked through and at an internal temperature of about 145°F.

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Serve over rice with a hefty side of your fresh tzatziki and enjoy the summer!

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Challenge Accepted: IMPOSSIBLE PIE

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I found this recipe in the newspaper a little while back and thought it looked tempting enough to try. It’s easy peasy and totally delectable but it looks complicated and fancy when you serve it, and it is not a totally overpowering dessert, so you can always have seconds!

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The impossible part of this pie is that you mix everything together all at once and pour the very liquidy batter into your pan for baking, and what comes out ends up having three layers: a sweet fudgy layer at the bottom, a custardy layer in the middle, and the chewy coconut layer on top. Full disclosure: I never achieved the fudgy bottom layer, but I suspect it’s because I used a huge heavy pie pan (because that was the only one I had that was deep enough). Perhaps if you use a thinner pie pan you might have better luck – if not, the pie is still pretty effing good.

Heat your oven to 325°F and spray a 10″ wide and 2″ deep pie pan.

Melt 1/2 cup butter, and let that come to room temperature. Pro tip: if you only melt the butter halfway, then give it a stir, the melted butter will melt the non-melted butter and the non-melted butter will bring the temperature of the melted butter down faster and you don’t have to wait as long for your super molten burn-y melted butter to cool down. It’s like MAGIC. Or thermodynamics. Either or.

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Grab 4 large eggs out of the fridge and bring them to room temperature by plopping them in a bowl of warm water. While you’re at it, leave 2 cups whole milk (or a combo of milk and cream) out on the counter to warm up too. HEY PRESTO!

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Take 1 lemon and zest it and then juice it. Nothing super magic about that. It’s a lemon for crying out loud.

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Grab yourself a perfectly ordinary food processor (or is it?). Or a blender. Or do this by hand. I prefer the magic of electricity. Plop in your 4 eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Then tip in (or do this first, the order doesn’t matter – this is just how I took the photos) 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.

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THEN tip in (or do this second, or whatever) your 1/2 cup butter, 2 cups whole milk, and lemon juice and zest.

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Give that a good whaz, THEN tip in (and this time it DOES matter the order because this has to happen after the whazzing) 1 1/4 cups shredded sweetened dried coconut (I used unsweetened. It was fine.). Stir that around.

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Pour the batter into your prepared pan. There it is, all perfectly ordinary and homogeneous-ish.

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Shove that in your prepared oven (I used my convection toaster oven) and bake for 55-60 minutes, until the top is a golden brown around the edges and you can shove a toothpick in the centre and it comes out clean (LIKE IT WAS NEVER DIRTY! AMAZING!).

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Pop that on a wire rack to cool. You can serve this warm but it cuts best if it’s been chilled first, so I recommend that. Keep any leftovers (HA) in the fridge, covered up.

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Even without that fudgy layer, this thing was still ballin’.

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Tomato Mint Salad

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LongJohn’s Nana, Mrs. Nice, has been coming into town to spend some time with him once a week so that I can do things that necessitate the use of both hands (in fact, she’s here right now so that I can use both hands to type this post – yay for Mrs. Nice, and grandparents everywhere!).

When she was here last I whipped up this salad of things that were in my fridge: normally when I make a tomato salad with feta I use balsamic vinegar and fresh basil but I didn’t have either of those so I went with a little twist, and I hope you like it.

Start with some tomatoes, naturally. I’m using grape tomatoes here but you can use whatever you have.

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Then, finely chop up an onion. This is a shallot. A red onion would also be nice.

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Nice and small. We want the IDEA of onion rather than holy-wow-there’s-a-lotta-onion-in-this.

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Grab some mint. I grew this monstrosity from three stalks I got out of a box at the grocery store.

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Crumble up some nice firm feta cheese.

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Assemble!

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I made a dressing out of grapeseed oil, honey, and a bit of lemon juice, and drizzled it over the whole shebang.

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It was lovely!

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Raspberry Mousse Pie

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This is another Martha Stewart recipe that I adapted to be gluten-free and made up for the second of our Mother’s Day celebrations (same day, different mom). This recipe is also great because it actually involves zero baking whatsoever, so if it’s hot where you are and you can’t handle the thought of turning on the oven – don’t worry about it.

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Start by lightly spraying a 9″ square metal baking dish with cooking spray. Or a 7″ x 10″ glass baking dish, which is what I did. Line it with parchment so that there’s some overhang, because you’re gonna need handles.

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Grab 7 or 8 graham crackers. These gluten-free ones are really tiny and kind of thick. We used the whole package. The original recipe involves laying them out in the pan whole but that always ends poorly for me so I plopped them in the food processor, together with about 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut and about 3 tablespoons butter and gave them a good whaz. Then I took that clumpy mixture and pressed it hard into the bottom of the pan. That way I could cut the pieces anyway I wanted without worrying about the shape of my graham crackers.

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Tip 3 tablespoons lemon juice into a wee bowl and sprinkle 1 envelope powdered gelatin (∼ 2 1/4 teaspoons) over top. Leave that for 5 minutes. Wash and drain about 2 cups fresh raspberries and plop them in your food processor. Purée the crap out of them.

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Pour the raspberry goo into a measuring cup via a fine mesh sieve. Scrape and scrape and shove the goo around until all the juice is through and what you have left is just seeds. Compost the seeds – you should have about 1 cup of raspberry juicy stuff.

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In a small saucepan, combine the raspberry stuff with 1/2 cup sugar and stir over medium until bubbles start to form at the edges.

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Tip in the gelatin mixture and stir constantly until the stuff is completely dissolved, about 1 minute.

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Pour that into a bowl and let it cool to room temperature.

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While you’re waiting, whip up 2 cups heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff and lovely.

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Fold your cooled raspberry goo gently into the cream and keep folding until the colour is uniform and it looks amazeballs.

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Pour the mousse goo over the graham crumbs and smooth if necessary with an offset spatula.

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Wash and drain another 2 cups fresh raspberries and use them to decorate the top.

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Refrigerate the mousse pie for about 2 hours or up to overnight. When you’re ready to serve, use the parchment handles to gently remove it from the pan before cutting it into squares. Enjoy!

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Creamsicle Pudding

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RUSTY!

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I adapted this recipe from Food52 when I had three oranges and two lemons and I didn’t know what to do with them (other than simply eat them, but that’s not very exciting).

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Start by zesting and juicing your 3 oranges and 2 lemons.

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You should end up with just over 1 cup juice (like a cup plus a couple tablespoons, which is good).

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Set a medium-sized pot on the stove with a couple inches of water in it and set it to simmer.

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Then grab a metal or heatproof glass bowl and crack in 6 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks. Give those a thorough beating-up. They probably deserve it, the jerks.

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Whisk in 1 1/2 cups sugar.

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Then toss in your zest and your juice.

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What a lovely colour.

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Set that on top of the simmering water and make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir pretty much constantly. If you leave egg yolks and granulated sugar alone for more than a minute they get a bit grainy and we don’t want that. Keep stirring!

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After about 10 or so minutes, the foam will disappear and you’ll have this lovely thick stuff that leaves a trace when you move the whisk. If you test this with a thermometer it should read around 180°F.

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Remove the bowl from the heat and let it cool a bit, stirring occasionally to release more heat. You want it somewhere around 140°F before you put your butter in. My butter was actually frozen so I started adding it in at around the 150°F mark.

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Tip all your lovely citrusy goo into a blender (you can use an immersion blender if you have a deep enough bowl) and add in 2 cups of unsalted butter, a few cubes at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition, until your concoction is pale and very thick. I may have overfilled my blender here. Oops. All the more reason to make sure the lid stays on.

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The finished product is more or less a curd, so you can use it to fill tarts, spread it on scones or toast (I have some panettone that is simply itching to be slathered), or eat it as a pudding. I’m also tempted to whip up some cream and fold them together to make a frozen fool (though the weather outside is too cold to make me crave cold treats). Just keep it covered and in the fridge if you don’t eat it all right away.

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St. Clement’s Cake

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I made this Jamie Oliver recipe for Mrs. Nice’s birthday cake and it was a real hit. If you’re not super into the huge layer cakes with tons of icing then I think this will be right up your alley. It’s a nice moist cake as well so it keeps for quite a few days if you wrap it up well.

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Measurements for this recipe are mostly in metric, so if you have a scale handy I would recommend using it. Start by greasing a springform cake pan with butter, and then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

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Next, grab yourself a large orange and take all the zest off. Juice it as well while you’re at it. Set that aside for a bit.

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In the bowl of your mixer, beat together 125g softened butter with 125g sugar until it’s soft and fluffy and amazing.

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Next, crack in 4 large eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition until everything is foamy and smooth.

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Tip in *most* of your orange zest. Keep some aside for the syrup and topping.

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Next, fold in 100g self-rising flour (see here for a DIY substitute) and 200g ground almonds.

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Smooth that loveliness into your cake pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until fully risen and lightly golden.

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Let that cool in the pan for a few minutes and make some syrup.

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In a small saucepan, tip in 100g sugar and the juice from that orange you smooshed earlier. Add in a pinch of the remaining zest as well for extra flavour if you like. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is totally dissolved.

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Next, take a skewer and poke a ton of holes all over your still-hot cake. Go all the way to the bottom.

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Drizzle the syrup all over the top of the cake and leave it for a few minutes to soak in before popping off the edges of the pan.

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Let the cake cool completely.

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Now I want you to zest and juice 1 lemon. Add a pinch of the lemon zest to your remaining orange zest, but stir the rest of it into 225g icing sugar.

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Drizzle in your lemon juice, stirring the whole time, until you have a glaze that is a nice consistency for pouring.

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Pour your glaze slowly over the entire cooled cake, allowing it to drip off the sides. It’s best to put a sheet of waxed paper under your rack BEFORE you do this.

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Sprinkle that remaining zest on top and leave it to harden a bit. Once it’s set you can transfer it to a plate for serving.

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Enjoy!

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Jammy Bran Muffins

These muffins are a little bit different from your usually brown bran muffins. As you may know, I have a love/hate relationship with bran, so I’m always looking for new ways to ingest fibre without feeling like I’m eating sawdust. It’s a never-ending challenge. The additional challenge of these is that for some reason I have four jars of jam in my fridge and neither the Pie nor I is eating a lot of toast at the moment. So I decided to use it as my sweetener in this shindig.

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Start by setting your oven to preheat at 350°F and spray a muffin tin or rub it with butter. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, feel free to sour some milk by adding 1 tablespoon lemon juice to every cup of regular milk. Give that a stir and leave it for 5 minutes.

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In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 cup bran, 1/4 cup ground flax (because it’s good for you – make sure it’s partially ground before you add it in), and 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda.

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In a smaller bowl, scramble together 4 tablespoons melted butter3/4 cup of your favourite jam (this one is serviceberry), 1 large egg, and 2 cups buttermilk (or alternative).

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Now pour the liquids into the solids and gently whisk until only just combined.

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Dump in 1 cup raisins (or not, if you’re not a fan of raisins) and whisk until just combined again – never over-mix muffins. If you do they end up flat. And that’s lame.

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Divide the batter in your tin. Bake those puppies for 20-25 minutes, until the centre muffin tests clean when stabbed with a toothpick.

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Leave them in the pan for about 5 minutes to cool a little bit before digging them out and eating them or letting them cool completely.

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We always like our muffins hot, with butter. Because, well, butter.

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