Friday, 28 September 2012

Phyllo-philia! :)

There are several ingredient mixtures that just are indicative of what heaven might be like.
I've got to admit that my all-time favourite ingredient combo is mushroom-garlic-bacon. But a close second is...spinach, ricotta/feta, and phyllo pastry. A match made in heaven. Hello!

Since making a spinach/ricotta ravioli a few weeks ago, and also indulging in a spinach/feta phyllo coil from the grocery store, I became obsessed. Similarly, I give kudos to my sister-in-law, who is a fellow foodie, for inspiring me to experiment with salmon and citrus.

Citrus-glazed salmon

2 salmon fillets (skin on)
Juice of 1/2 orange
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest of both halves
2 tsp Dijon
1-2 tsp honey
Season till you perceive a balance of sweet, salty, tart, and spicy
2 green onions chopped finely

Mix the sauce ingredients. Heat a saute pan with 3 tbsp olive oil on low-medium until just starting to smoke. Lay the fillets, skin-side down, on the pan. Drizzle all the sauce over the salmon. Cook the salmon till 2/3 done while skin-down. Continually baste the top of the fillet with the sauce. You'll notice that the sauce becomes sticky and gooey as you cook the salmon. Don't worry if the salmon is still slightly pink in the middle when done. As long as it's hot all through, it's fine. And what's more, it will be a LOT more juicy!

Once done, sprinkle the chopped spring onions over the fillets to add a zingy onion flavour that will balance out the citrusy tartness.

Spinach and ricotta spanakopita

DISCLAIMER: I am not Greek. I don't even know if I spelled spanakopita properly. However, I DO know that usually spanakopita is made with feta, not ricotta. And there's a good reason. Feta is much more briney, whereas ricotta is not salty at all. But since I had leftover ricotta, I substituted it. But added a LOT of salt.

1/2 package of phyllo pastry
1 package frozen chopped spinach
1 clove garlic
1/2 small tub of ricotta
LOADS of salt
1/4 cup melted butter

Thaw the phyllo and spinach till room temperature.

Pull out two sheets of phyllo pastry and cut in 1/4s lengthwise and brush with melted butter. Cover the remaining phyllo with a damp cloth.

Squeeze the excess water from the spinach with a cheese cloth. Mix spinach, ricotta, garlic, and salt. Put a large tablespoon of the mix onto the bottom of a phyllo strip and fold in alternating triangles to the top. (Think   of making a child's paper ornament).

Once all the spinach and ricotta mix is packaged into neat little triangles, brush with butter, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with oregano and bake for 10-15 minutes in a 375 degree oven till crisp and golden brown.

I guarantee there won't be any leftovers!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Fish fusion

For several days now, I've been craving Thai food. Now, my family is pretty traditional when it comes to food. As my husband says, "I prefer food from Europe..." And my daughter is pretty much stuck on ham sandwiches with mayonnaise.

But knowing I had these amazing ingredients in my fridge...tilapia, cilantro, ginger, lemon grass, lime, snow craving became unbearable!

However, despite my apparent bravado, I sincerely doubted that I could produce anything similar to Thai food, no matter what ingredients I had. And to admit it, I've never tasted authentic Thai food, so probably I didn't. But regardless of what I made, it was freakin' awesome!!

I DID try to take inspiration from Thai cooking. And, being super WASP, I probably fused a variety of Asian foods (and maybe, for my sweetie, there was some Italian in there!).

The end result was pretty darn delicious though. And this is what it was:

Saffron, Cocount, and Cilantro Risotto 

3/4  cup coconut milk
2 1/2 cup water
1 large pinch of saffron
1 cup rice
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Salt to taste

Add the coconut milk and 1 cup of water to a pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice and saffron. Keep adding water until the rice is done. Add salt to taste (it will probably be more than you estimate as the coconut milk makes the rice quite sweet.).  Just before serving add the chopped cilantro.

Thai Fish Curry

In a food processor, combine the following:

1/2 stalk crushed lemon grass
1 large red chili (I used two of my Apache chilis from my garden--they are as big as my pinkie fingernail, but are potent!)
2 small garlic cloves
3 diced tomatoes
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
The zest of one lime
The juice of half a lime
1 tbsp honey

Blend well. Taste constantly to make sure you have equal parts of sweet, sour, hot, and salty.

Heat a pan with two tbsp of peanut oil on medium. Once hot, add 3 diced fillets of tilapia (or any other fresh fish).

Once the fish is nearly done, add:

1 thinly sliced red pepper
1 cup of snow peas

If necessary, put a lid over the mixture to steam it till done.

Once done:

Add the curry sauce to the fish and veggie mixture. Sautee on low heat till the fish is done.

Serve the curried fish with the saffron, cilantro, coconut rice....YUM!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Fad-ulous feasts

The are several reasons why I have not blogged in a while. One of them being that work has been insane, but the other, more pertinent factor is that I went vegetarian for two months. Sorry to my Veggie friends, but I completely lost my inspiration for cooking when I couldn't sear, braise, grill, or sautee. I know...there's such a thing as grilled tofu and sauteed veg, but I found myself gravitating to bread and peanut butter sandwiches and pasta for dinner. I guess to be vegetarian it would help to love vegetables. I DO love some veg, but only if it's accompanied by meat, I suppose.

That being said, I still believe in the reason I went veggie in the first place... I wanted to protest factory farming. Look it up if interested. If not, this is not a soapbox, so don't worry. Although, if you want more information, see:

(PS: For local readers in the KW area, I would love to discover more friendly ways of eating without breaking the bank. The Healthy Butcher is all well and good, but Healthy Butcher=Sick bank account).

REGARDLESS...I am now back in cooking heaven, and as the title suggests I've realized that my cooking like my fashion has phases. Sometimes I dress punk for weeks at a time and then will go to work in slacks and a sweater...or even yoga pants. Similarly, a few months ago I was into survival food. And I don't mean trail mix. Our family really enjoys survival shows like Man vs. Wild, Dual Survivor, and Survivorman. I started buying frog legs, and learning how to gut and fillet a whole fish. It was so much fun, I even thought of making escargot from the snails in my back yard a la Gordon Ramsay. Unfortunately, I think the little buggers are so cute, that they're almost like a collection of backyard pets.

So after my veggie stint, what's the new fad? Meat of course, but also homemade pasta!!

My husband watched a Jamie Oliver show that describes how simple it is to make homemade pasta, and we've been experimenting with it ever since.

First was a tagliatelle with a basic herb and garlic tomato sauce:

The recipe goes like this:

100 grams of flour
1 egg
1 tsp. olive oil

Kneed. Roll out. Roll up. Slice. Dump in boiling water for 45 seconds. Done.

It was delicious. One thing I would recommend though, if you're going to be doing this alot, is to invest in a pasta roller (it's on my birthday list!). You can roll and roll and roll till you finally understand how the Italian mamas got so muscular, and you still won't be able to get it as thin as a roller. And with fresh pasta, it puffs up a little when it's boiled.

Yesterday, to continue with my pasta/Italian theme, dinner was chicken parmesan with homemade tomato sauce and spinach and ricotta ravioli.

Tomato sauce:

6 roma tomatoes stewed in a sautee pan with 1/2 cup water till soft

Once the tomatoes are soft, strain and pour into a food processor. Then add:

Fresh basil, sage, and oregano (dried if you don't have fresh)
4-5 cremini mushrooms
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove
1 tsp molasses

Blend. Done.

Chicken parmesan:

2 cups bread crumbs (I didn't have any French bread, so I toasted several slices of whole wheat bread and blended them in the food processor).
Enough shredded mozzarella to significantly cover each piece of chicken
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 egg mixed with 1/2 cup milk for breading
Chicken breasts (I actually used thighs and they worked just as well)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Dip each piece of chicken in the egg/milk mixture. Coat thoroughly with breadcrumbs. Place the pieces on a baking sheet covered in tinfoil.
After about 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350.
Bake for 40 minutes.

Remove from oven. Pour 1/2 of the tomato sauce into a 9 x 13 pan. Place the chicken pieces over top. Then pour the rest of the sauce over the chicken pieces. Cover each piece with a significant amount of shredded mozzarella and then sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan over top. Bake for another 10 minutes.

Spinach and ricotta ravioli

2-3 cups of spinach
1 clove of garlic
1/3 cup of ricotta

Use the same pasta recipe as above, but this time, after rolling out the dough cut it into ravioli-sized squares.
Sautee 1 minced clove of garlic and 2-3 cups of spinach in olive oil until the spinach is wilted.

Mix the spinach with the ricotta. Dab approximately 1 tbsp of the mix on a pasta square. Wet another square with water and press it over top of the square with mix. Ensure that all air is removed from the pocket and that the edges are tightly sealed.

Drop in boiling water and allow to cook for 2-4 minutes.

(My husband thoroughly enjoyed this meal, and let's just say there were no leftovers!)