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

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

Jerusalem Artichoke and Carrot Jalapeno Soup

Here we’ve reached the last of our Jerusalem artichokes.  Have you had enough?  I think I have.

This is kind of a garbage soup, but only sorta.

Chop up a large onion.  Or in my case, half an onion and two shallots.  Chuck those in a pot with some olive oil and garlic.

I still had some eggplant leftover from that lasagna I made a little while back.  You can leave that as an option at your discretion.

Chop up three jalapeños and chuck them in as well.

Sauté them for a little bit.

Chop up two carrots and plop those in.

Chop up two pounds of jerusalem artichokes.  Those go in too.

Pour in enough chicken stock (about a litre) to almost cover and bring the liquid to a boil.  Simmer on medium-low for an hour or so, until all the vegetables are tender and you can squish the carrots with a spoon.

Take an immersion blender to it and give ‘er until it’s smooth.

Now take some romano and grate it up.  About three tablespoons.

Put it in a bowl and sprinkle it liberally with black pepper.

Pour in about half a cup whipping cream.  Whip it up good.

When stiff peaks form you’re set.

Plop a dollop of that on your soup with some Italian parsley.

Serve it up!

Quick and Classic Spaghetti Sauce

It really hurts my brain when people invite me over for dinner and they serve spaghetti with sauce straight out of a can.  Why would you do that when it is so easy to make something a little more special?

My mother has been making spaghetti sauce from scratch for as long as I can remember, and it always, always tastes ten times better than anything I’ve ever gotten at a restaurant – or anywhere else, for that matter.  I learned how to make it myself and have been modifying it ever since.  I’m not a huge measurer when it comes to sauces, so it’s different every time. Feel free to use your own judgment in this.

So now, for the first time ever in print, a classic and easy spaghetti sauce I learned from my mother, who learned it from her mother.  I’ll give you the quick and the slow versions, as well as the non-vegetarian option.

First, you need to prep your vegetables.  Chop, into small chunks:

 

1 large onion (white or yellow work best)

2 bell peppers (we use red because I’m allergic to the green, but I’ve always thought the green added better colour)

10 average-sized mushrooms (whichever kind suit your fancy)

2 jalapeño peppers (optional, but I like a bit of the spice – make sure you’re careful when cutting these, as pepper juice in the eye is excruciating)

My favourite spices
Can you smell that?
This one reminded me of baby food.

In a large pot, sauté the onions in a few teaspoons of olive oil until tender.  Sprinkle in a healthy pinch each (I’m talking three fingers and your thumb, here) of basil and oregano, as well as two or three crushed cloves of garlic.  I’m a pretty lazy cook, and a handy shortcut I discovered is garlic in a jar.  I’m experimenting with brands at the moment, because I can’t get my beloved Mr. Goudas brand here in Newfoundland, but I figure a teaspoonful of minced garlic is a good-sized clove’s worth.

Carnivorous Option: If you were adding meat to your recipe, now would be the time to do it.  I usually add a brick-sized amount of ground beef, turkey, sausage or pork.  Chorizo or other cooked sausage works just as well.  Brown the meat carefully and thoroughly, and then drain any excess fat.  If you use a lean or extra lean ground you won’t have to drain it.

Now add the rest of your vegetables to the pot and allow to soften for a few minutes until their colour is heightened.

When the vegetables’ colour turns bright, they’re ready.

In this next step you have a bunch of options.

Take your pick of available sauces.

For the slow and steady cook, add one large can of diced tomatoes and one of crushed tomatoes.

Pour some water into the empty jar and shake it to get all the saucy goodness.

Instead of a can of crushed tomatoes you can use a jar of commercial spaghetti sauce, which has the benefit of a few extra spices added in.  If the Pie is around I usually don’t put in the diced tomatoes, either, just two jars of spaghetti sauce.  For the particular recipe illustrated here, I used a carton of Trader Joe’s Starter Sauce, and it was a nice balance of tomato for both of us.  I find a little extra liquid is always helpful with this sauce, as it tends to reduce over time, so what I do is pour a splash or two into the empty spaghetti sauce jar, close the lid, and shake it, to get all the saucy goodness out of it and into my pot.

If you are taking the vegetarian option, now you would add your TVP.  The Pie is more of a measurer than I am, and he says he put about a cup of the stuff into this particular sauce.  I like the action shot of it pouring into the pot.  You will find that because TVP absorbs water, you will need a bit more liquid than you would if you used meat, so keep that in mind.

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
TVP Action Shot

Get the sauce to a low simmer, and leave it, stirring occasionally, for about an hour.  The longer you simmer it, the longer the flavours have to mix.  You can also make this recipe in a slow-cooker, moving everything to the crock pot after the meat stage and going from there.

Serve with your choice of pasta and lots of parmesan cheese.  There is enough sauce here for about 8 people.