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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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.

Spag Bol Redux

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I have so many fun and exciting things to show you guys in the near future, but I thought I’d do a little bit of a retrospective today. My very first entry on this here blog, five-plus years and 900-odd posts ago, was a recipe for spaghetti bolognese. I make this spaghetti sauce all the freaking time, so I thought I’d do another post just to show you how things have changed over the years, but they still remain in essence the same. For one, the Pie and I went vegetarian for a month when I made that post so there’s no meat in that sauce. For another, I was way lazier when it came to chopping things up, so my sauces were much chunkier. I like them a bit more uniform these days.

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Some things stay the same, though: I always load it down with diced onions to start. I made a crapton (a metric measurement of course) of this so that I could freeze it so I can’t give you exact measurements. Just lots.

Spag Bol Redux 2

I always add diced red pepper (I’m allergic to green) and diced mushrooms. You can add whatever you wish, though. Sometimes I chuck in whatever’s in my fridge that needs to be used: avocadoes (they add a nice thickness the sauce), tomatoes, sometimes even carrots.

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And then of course a variety of tomato-based canned items. I used to use jarred spaghetti sauce as my base but I found they were sneaking green peppers into the mix and it wasn’t doing my digestive system any good so I switched to canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and canned diced tomatoes.

Spag Bol Redux 1

First I start by sautéeing up the onions with olive oil and a little butter. I let them go until they’re smelly and soft. Then I pull apart a large hunk of lean or extra lean ground beef. I like to break it up with my fingers to ensure that there are no big chunks in the pot. You can also use ground turkey or pork or whatever works for you. If you’re going the veggie route and using TVP, add that last.

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After the meat is browned to my satisfaction I tip in my vegetables, as well as some minced garlic, salt, pepper, and various spices.

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I like a mix of italian spice plus extra basil.

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I add in all my tomato things as well and give that a grand old stirring.

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Let that simmer for at least half an hour so the flavours can mingle, and feel free to adjust the spices as you see fit. I like to let it simmer as long as I can, but it’s good either way.

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Cool and freeze or serve hot on top of your favourite fresh pasta, baked into a pasta casserole, or glopped on top of bread as a sloppy joe!

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Citrus Chipotle Cranberry Sauce? Believe it.

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I made a fancy cranberry sauce for Christmas last year but for some reason I didn’t blog it. This year for Thanksgiving (13 October in Canada) I wanted something a little spicier (but not much spicier) than the traditional sauce, so I thought that this would be a good bloggable opportunity, and I modified this recipe I found on Epicurious (originally of Bon Appétit) to do it. The result is a delightfully rich cranberry sauce with a hint of savoury and garlic and a smoky after taste. It’s truly amazeballs (yes, that is the technical term).

Chipotle Cranberry Sauce 1

Start with 2 dried chipotle chillies. Super dried. Gross.

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Plop those in a medium saucepan filled with water and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let those chillies soak up the hot water for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how dried out they are. You want to be able to mince them in the end. Your house will smell like chipotle for like forever, just a warning. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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Grab yourself an orange and a lemon and zest them.

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I used a small rasp to get most of the zest but I used one of the fancy kinds for cocktails to get a bit of rind for colour.

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Juice the lemon while you’re at it and save the juice. Eat the orange because it’s good for you. DO IT.

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When the chillies are soft, drain them and then plop them in another pot with 24oz fresh cranberries (that’s two of the standard bags you get at the grocery store), the lemon and orange zest and lemon juice, 3/4 cup dried diced apricots (optional but worth it), and about 2 cups sugar. I actually saved a splash of the chipotle water and added it in as well, probably about 2-3 tablespoons.

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Heat that over medium, stirring, until the sugar is all dissolved.

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Now, you’re supposed to keep the chillies in there until the end and then take them out, stem and deseed them, and then plop them back in. But my chillies were so soft they started falling apart almost immediately.

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So I took out the bits of chipotle earlier, minced them (which was easier than I thought it would be, considering how hard they used to be), and added them back in. A few stray seeds made it in as well but there’s no harm in that.

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Keep cooking the berries, stirring occasionally now, until they start to softly POP open (it’s a delightful noise, I promise). Stir in 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin.

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Keep stirring that until the sauce starts to thicken a bit and you can tell that the flavours have all gotten to know each other. Then you can remove it from the heat and let it cool.

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Chill the cranberry sauce for up to one week before it’s needed. It also freezes fantastically.

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I actually hope this lasts until Thanksgiving Monday. The Pie and I keep scooping out bites of it with a spoon.

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Turkey Meatball Rigatoni with Pesto

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Happy Canada Day!  Today is a holiday here in the Great White North.  Last Monday was also a holiday for those of us in Newfoundland, and I cooked this recipe up on that particular day.  We are trying to consume the contents of our pantry and freezer before we move (and we’re doing a pretty good job) so this gets rid of a chunk of the stuff in there.

Turkey Meatball Rigatoni 1

Anyway, my landlord is doing some renovations to her house, which is directly behind ours, and she needs our yard for access.  The first thing I said to the Pie when he got up and joined me in the kitchen last Monday morning was, “Oh good, you’re clothed — there’s a man in our tree.”  And there was.  And there were several in the backyard.

Morning View

And in the front yard.

Rock Collection

And in the side yard.

Gravel Road

And everywhere.  All.  Day.  Which made Gren very grumpy.

Couch Potato

And all the shops were closed so we had to make do with what was around for our dinner.  So start making up some meatballs, okay?  Preheat your oven to 375°F and grab a baking sheet. Ignore the small highway being created in your backyard.

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Finely grate up a medium-sized carrot.  Chuck that in a bowl.

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Slice up some green onions.

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Then dice ’em.  Chuck those in the bowl with the carrots.

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Then add a few spoonfuls minced garlic.

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Plop in 2 eggs.

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And about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs.

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Give that a thorough stirring.

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Add in some ground turkey, seasoned with salt and pepper.

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Stir that all together, then use your hands to squish it into golf-ball-sized meatballs.

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Plop those onto your baking sheet and let those cook in the oven for 20 minutes.

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To test for doneness, cut one open and see that there’s no pink inside.

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Grab yourself some pesto, too.  However much you want.  I like lots.  You can buy it or make it yourself, it’s up to you.

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And slice up some tomatoes.  I used grape tomatoes here.

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Boil up a pot of water and cook up some pasta.  We used rigatoni, because it was something we needed to get rid of.

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Drain the pasta.  Dump the tomatoes and the meatballs into the pot with the pasta.

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Add the pesto.  Stir like there’s no tomorrow.

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Serve it up hot!

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Pumpkin Soup

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Right.  So.  In my effort to effectively use all the pumpkin purée left over from our Pumpkin-Off, all 14 cups of it, we are starting to get sick of pumpkin (though the amount of fibre that has been added to our diet is extraordinary).

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The solution?  SOUP.  Most pumpkin soup recipes call for a single can (a little less than 2 cups) of the stuff, but I’m just gonna giv’er and dump in the rest of what I got.  BLAM.  It came out to about 2 1/2 cups.

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I don’t really feel like blending this soup, because the pumpkin is pre-puréed, so I’m just going to cut everything else up really small. It’s a really quick recipe, too, no need to simmer for a long time, so you can make it, say, just before lunch, and then eat it right away.

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First I got my spices ready: minced garlic, a little bit of cumin, some curry, and a bit of chipotle.

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And the incidentals: lemon juice (don’t mock my plastic lemon, it’s the best I can do in Newfoundland), chicken broth, and coconut milk.

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Then my vegetables: three carrots, an onion, and a red pepper.

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The carrots I scrubbed and grated with the skins still on.  That’s good vitamins for ya.

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The red pepper and onion I diced up.

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In a large saucepan, then, heat up a bit of olive oil on medium-high and toss in your onions.  Cook those until they’re softened.

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Then add in your cup o’spices, and stir that around for a minute or so.

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Chuck in your grated carrot and diced pepper and stir that around as well, spritz it with lemon juice, then add in your coconut milk and stir until fully incorporated.

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Add in the pumpkin finally (it was already cooked, so I didn’t want to overcook it), and pour in the chicken broth until you’ve reached a consistency that you like.  Let that simmer for about 20 minutes and that’s it, you’re all done.

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Season with salt and pepper, and a little more lemon if you like.  At the eleventh hour I added a teaspoon ground cloves to boost the pumpkin.

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This one came out a bit spicy, because I guess my curry was hotter than I had previously thought. I would recommend serving with a bit of yogurt or sour cream.

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Wingin’ it Wednesday: Comfort Ramen

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

The week before we left for Vancouver, the Pie, poor thing, got tonsillitis.  After the fever went down and he’d rested a bit (read: slept all day and all night for two days), he still had a raging sore throat and came home from the doctor’s with an enormous jar of amoxycillin pills (sorry folks, when you’re grown up, they don’t give you the banana-flavoured liquid anymore).

To tempt his appetite (hard to be hungry when every swallow is like eating razors), I made him all sorts of his favourite soft foods, and this was one of them.  Ramen is the sort of thing we eat when one of us is out for the evening and the other doesn’t want to be bothered with really cooking.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Of course, the ramen as it comes in packages with salty broth and dried noodles cooked in coconut or palm kernel oil is an unhealthy choice, and I haven’t yet learned to make it from scratch.  So we try to add a few things to it in the hopes that it will be nutritionally redeemed — somewhat.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

This means that there’s a bit of prep work involved in making what is normally an almost instant meal, but it’s totally worth it.  Just remember that any vegetable or meat or anything you put in the ramen must be fully cooked or sliced super dooper thin, because it will only be in the boiling water for a very short time.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Accordingly, tonight I thinly sliced up a small onion, an Italian sausage, and about six mushrooms.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

I’m trying to get more protein in small packages into the Pie’s stomach (when you’re a large man and you’re barely eating, you tend to get very tired), so I’m also adding two eggs to this mix.  Beat those up and let them wait in a bowl until you’re ready.  Other things that work well in ramen are things like thinly sliced roast beef, green onions, pre-cooked baby shrimp, chopped hard-boiled eggs, red peppers, alfalfa sprouts, spinach … anything small, pretty much, will work.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

So the first thing I do when cooking packaged ramen is I measure the water into a pot and I add the powdered broth.  I like to give it a chance to simmer a bit.  I also add a healthy dollop of minced garlic.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

When the water is boiling, I slide in the blocks of noodles and cook them for about a minute.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Then I pour in the vegetables and sausage and give them a stir (cooking chopsticks are very handy here, but a regular pasta spoon will work as well), and let that cook for another minute.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Then carefully pour your egg in, in a thin stream, so it cooks and forms strings on the surface of the soup.  Give that a stir as well, and then you’re ready to serve.

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Garnish with fresh herbs if you like, or chili flakes or whatever floats your boat.  Smooth and simple!

Wingin' It Wednesdays: Comfort Ramen

Baba Ghanouj

Baba Ghanouj

*drool*

I have a thing for baba ghanouj. The Pie only lets me buy it when it’s on sale (though that might have something to do with the fact that we consume large quantities of na’an when we eat it), so imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered two things. The first is that making the stuff is ridiculously easy, even easier than making hummus. The second, is that eggplants were on sale!

I bought this honker of an eggplant, which weighs in at about 2lb.

Baba Ghanouj

Turn your broiler on to high (or prep your barbecue, because you can grill these babies, too), and roast the eggplant for 30-40 minutes, until the skin is crisp and blackened and the insides are squishy. If you have a big eggplant, poke it with holes and cut it in half. Let that cool completely.

Baba Ghanouj

When it’s room temperature, scoop the innards out.

Baba Ghanouj

I got to bust out my little-used food processor, which I got for free from a friend who was moving away to England. Every time I use this baby I’m always amazed at the marvel that is the food processor. But because I use it so rarely, it’s always a struggle to remember how to put the damned thing together.

Baba Ghanouj

Plop the eggplant innards into your food processor and pulse until smooth.

Baba Ghanouj

Add in, making adjustments for your own taste, a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil2 tablespoons lemon juice, 3 tablespoons tahini, and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Pulse that around as well and give it a taste.

Baba Ghanouj

After the initial taste, I added in some paprika, a pinch of cumin, and some more lemon juice, but of course that depends on your own preferences.

Baba Ghanouj

To serve, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh parsley, pomegranate seeds, red pepper flakes, or whatever suits your fancy, and eat with flat bread. OM NOM NOM.

Baba Ghanouj

O Canada: Baked Beans with Toutons

Baked Beans with Toutons

My house currently smells like awesome.  All the windows are steamed up.  It’s great.

Baked beans, I think you’d agree, are a traditional staple all down the eastern seaboard of North America.  Add a splash of Québec maple syrup to the sweet, dark sauce and serve it with a side of Newfoundland toutons (“TAOW-tuns”), however, and you’ve got yourself a Canadian dish.  It all takes quite a bit of time (you have to start by soaking your beans overnight), but it’s worth it to have your house smell this good.

For the Baked Beans:

I cobbled together this bean recipe from three others, which I’ve listed at the bottom of this post.  I think baked beans are conceptually pretty fluid, so feel free to experiment on your own.

Baked Beans with Toutons

This recipe also involves some interesting food items that are not usual additions to my refrigerator contents: fatback pork and salt pork.  If you can’t find fatback pork or pre-cut scruncheons, you can also deep-fry the toutons in vegetable oil.  Here in St. John’s, salt meat, which you can buy in 4L buckets, has its own section in the grocery store, right next to the bologna section.  That’s right, bologna section.  As in, there are several different kinds and cuts of bologna available to the residents of this lovely city.  Luckily I found smaller amounts of fatback pork and salt pork riblets, and was able to get away with just a scant pound of each, rather than having to find a use for a whole bucket of meat.  You could probably use a salty ham (Virginia-style) in place of the salt pork if you can’t find it.  And of course if you want a vegetarian version of the baked beans, leave out the pork altogether.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Start with about 4 cups dried white navy beans.  Rinse them and plop them in a bowl.  Cover them with several inches of water and leave them overnight to soak.  You may need to add more water as it gets absorbed.

Baked Beans with Toutons

The next day, drain and rinse the beans and plop them in a very large pot with three times their volume of water to cover (so take the bowl the beans were in and fill that sucker three times with water and you should be good).

Baked Beans with Toutons

Plop in 1lb salt pork.  Usually this comes on the bone.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the beans and pork simmer for 40-50 minutes, until they’re all tender and stuff.  Scoop out 1 1/2 cups bean cooking water and then drain the rest.

While the beans are simmering, finely chop up 1 large onion.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Plop the onion in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon dry mustard (Keen’s or Colman’s are the traditional versions around here), 2 teaspoons chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and fragrant.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Pour into that 4-156mL cans of tomato paste (that’s about 2 1/3 cups), 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 3/4 cup fancy molasses, and 1/2 cup pure maple syrup.  Give that a good stir and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes.  It will bubble like the Thing from the Black Lagoon and get absolutely everywhere, so make sure to cover it.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Pour in the reserved bean cooking water and mix well.  You can purée it in a food processor at this point if you wish, but I didn’t bother.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Preheat your oven to 300°F.  You could do this earlier but it really doesn’t take long, so there’s no point in having your oven on for such an extended period of time.

Strip the salt pork from its bones and tear it into small pieces before tossing it back in with your drained beans.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Mix the beans and the sauce together.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish.  Cover and bake for 2-3 hours, then uncover and bake until sauce is thick and the beans are coated, about another hour.  Serve hot with toutons, or allow to cool and freeze for later.

Baked Beans with Toutons

For the Toutons:

I pulled the recipe for these weird little Newfoundland doughnuts/dumplings/biscuits from this site.  Most of the other recipes I found ended up being exact copies of this one, so I figured it was legit.  Toutons are essentially fried white bread dumplings.  Most of the time they are served doused with butter and maple syrup.  This sounds like a good idea to me.  You can buy pre-made touton dough at the gas station down the block from our house.  During the summer festival here they have touton-throwing contests.  These bready balls are evidently important to Newfoundland culture.

Start by dissolving 1 tablespoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water.  Add in 1 tablespoon traditional yeast.  Allow that to stand for 10 minutes, then stir it in until it’s all dissolved.

Baked Beans with Toutons

In a saucepan, scald 1 cup low-fat milk (the recipe called for 2% but we use 1% so I figured that would only save us from an earlier death).  Add in 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening and stir until it’s all melted.

Baked Beans with Toutons

To the hot milk, add 1/2 cup cold water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Make sure the milk mixture is lukewarm and then add the yeast mixture and stir until well-blended.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Add in 2 cups all-purpose flour and stir until it’s all smooth.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Gradually add 3-4 more cups of flour until you have a moist dough that no longer sticks to the bowl.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Shape the dough into a ball and plop it in a greased bowl, turning the ball to grease the top.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and put it somewhere warm and draft-free for the dough to double in size, about an hour.

Baked Beans with Toutons

While you’re waiting, you can make your scruncheons (or scrunchins), which are fried pork back fat.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Mmmm.  Like bacon only without the actual pork.  So you take your backfat, about 1/4lb, and you cube it up as finely as you can.

Baked Beans with Toutons

This is harder than it looks.  Pig backs are tough.  Also see the surface of this particular chunk?  I’m convinced it was actual skin, because it was a pain to get through, and it fried up almost rock hard.  I suggest trimming that off if you can.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Set your raw scruncheons aside for a spell, until your dough is ready.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Punch down the dough and squeeze off pieces about 1/3 cup in size.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Flatten them to about 1/2″ thick, in a circular or triangular shape.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Fry your scruncheons until the solid pieces are golden brown and crisp.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Take them out and lay them on a paper towel.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Fry the toutons in the liquid pork fat until they are golden on both sides, a minute or so per side.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Add a dab of butter to the hot touton, sprinkle with crispy scruncheons, and douse with maple syrup.  Serve hot!

Baked Beans with Toutons

Now if you’ll excuse me I am going to go and have a heart attack somewhere.

Baked Beans with Toutons

More Baked Beans:

http://canadianwinter.ca/index.php?page=canadian_winter_molasses_baked_beans

http://www.canadianliving.com/food/maple_baked_beans.php

http://suppertonight.wordpress.com/2008/09/09/canadian-baked-beans/

Tofu Feature Month: Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu

I FINALLY found silken tofu in St. John’s.  I’ve been looking for it for what feels like forever.  In celebration of my recent discovery, and the Pie’s insistence that he needs to slim down in time for Kristopf’s wedding next July, I have decided to honour the long-standing request of my friend Danger K and start finding new ways to cook with tofu.  You might know Danger K: she recently got married (on our wedding anniversary, no less), and she and her husband planned a big fancy wedding by begging, bartering, and borrowing everything they could.  Their expenses out of pocket?  About two hundred bucks.  You can read about the process on their blog, Project Priceless.  So they’re a little bit famous back in Ottawa.  And I can say that I knew her when.  We went to high school together.  In fact, she had a huge crush on one of my brothers (DON’T DENY IT DANGER K I HAVE PROOF).  Not that I’m going to hold that against her or anything.

Mapo Tofu

So.  Cooking with tofu.

My previous experiences cooking with tofu (not in eating it, just cooking it) focused mainly on tossing cubes of it into Broccofu, Peanut Butter Spaghetti, or the occasional stir-fry.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but’s not using tofu in all its myriad manifestations.  This fall, the Pie and I aim to change our ways, and this recipe is the beginning.  September will be a sort of Tofu Feature Month.

Mapo doufu (mapo tofu) is a traditional spicy dish from the Sichuan province of China and involves sautéing tofu pieces in a suspension of a paste made of beans and chilis.  What I found particularly interesting about this dish is that I normally think of tofu as a protein-replacement for meat, but this recipe calls for a combination of tofu AND beef or pork.  Very unique (for me, at least).

Mapo Tofu

A note on substitutions:  this recipe calls for chili bean paste, a spicy gooey mixture of fermented soy beans and chilis (I’m thinking like a super-hot miso).  I didn’t have such a thing, so I used black bean paste instead with the chilis, which is why my sauce isn’t that signature reddish colour.  The recipe also requires the use of rice wine, which, not being a wine-drinker, I also don’t have, so we used rice wine vinegar instead.  Finally, the recipe I used made little sense and required some serious moderation, so I haven’t linked you to it.   I wasn’t a huge fan.

Start by making up enough rice for two people.

Mapo Tofu

Drain and pat dry one block soft tofu (I used extra-firm silken tofu because I wanted to see what it was like).  Cut it into 1″ cubes.

Mapo Tofu

Slice up 4-5 green onions and save about 1/4 of the green tips (sliced) for garnish.

Mapo Tofu

In a skillet or wok over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and sauté 4oz ground beef or pork until cooked.  Drain and set aside.

In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.  Add 1 teaspoon minced ginger, the green onion that isn’t what you saved for garnish, 2 whole dried chilis, and 1 teaspoon ground peppercorns (Sichuan if you’ve got ’em).  Cook that for about a minute.

Mapo Tofu

Add the ground meat back in, as well as 3 tablespoons chili bean paste, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine, and 2 teaspoons brown sugar.  Cook that for another minute or so, just so everything can get acquainted.

Mapo Tofu

Add in the cubed tofu as well as 1/4 cup vegetable stock (or beef, or pork) and let that simmer for 15 minutes.   Stir occasionally, but don’t let the tofu fall apart.

Mapo Tofu

When it’s nearing done, dissolve 1 tablespoon corn starch in a little bit of water and pour that in as well.  Stir gently until it thickens.

Mapo Tofu

Serve over rice and garnish with the remaining green onions.  SPICY!

Mapo Tofu