Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Roasted chicken and veg tray bake

roasted chicken tray bake with vegetables
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I like tray bakes. I just like to plop ingredients into a pan and walk away, and in an hour discover a cooked feast with very little work done on my part. This tray bake was very nice, so let me share with you what I did.

I put four chicken thighs (skin on and bone in), a few whole cloves of garlic, three tomatoes cut in half, a handful each of whole red and white new potatoes, and some onions, peeled and quartered, in a roasting pan. Then I made a dressing of balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil in my trusty glass measuring cup, and poured it all over the ingredients.

For good food, one must get one's hands dirty, so I mixed everything up with my hands and rubbed the dressing in everywhere so that all of the ingredients were coated.

Lastly, I tucked a couple of springs of fresh thyme in strategic places. You could also add dried herbs or some chili peppers or chili flakes for some extra pizzazz.

I baked this in a 400 oven for 45 minutes to an hour, although if you are cooking boneless meat it should be done much faster than that. The chicken was nicely browned and crispy skinned, but I upped that delicious ante by browning it up even more under the broiler. I hope you try this recipe sometime. Your house will smell fantastic and your tummy will love you :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Parmesan-encrusted broccoli with lemon

parmesan-encrusted broccoli with lemon
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I love broccoli, especially when it's crisp-tender like in my mom's stir-fry. When I was an undergrad, I bought a book called 101 Ways to Fix Broccoli. It's very sweet; the author Betty Price developed 101 recipes for her dad who wanted to eat broccoli every day after being diagnosed with cancer.

These days, my favourite way to fix broccoli is according to chef Tyler Florence's recipe in Tyler's Ultimate. It's crunchy and covered in a crispy, salty parmesan crust.

One head of broccoli serves two people. I cut it lengthwise into four spears. I blanched them for a couple of minutes in salted, boiling water, drained them and plunged them into an ice bath.

I arranged them in one layer in the bottom of a baking dish and sprinkled over some grated parmesan, although you could use any cheese or a different "hard" cheese, such as gruyère, grana padano or fontina. I baked the spears in a 400 F oven for eight minutes, and then put them under the broiler for two minutes to brown the cheese.

Serve with a squirt of lemon. It will raise them to an even tastier dimension!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chicken tray bake with vegetables and cheese

roasted chicken tray bake with vegetables and cheese
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According to Canada's Food Guide, meals are healthiest when half of the plate is fruit and vegetables, a quarter is meat or equivalent, and the remaining quarter, grain product.

A typical Asha meal is often half pasta, a quarter meat and vegetable, and the remaining quarter, cheese. Not exactly Canada's Food Guide-approved.

However, I am confident the authors would have been proud of me for cooking this recent meal: three quarters potatoes, tomatoes, onions and broccoli, and the remaining quarter a yummy roasted chicken thigh. Oh, and did I mention that broccoli was parmesan-encrusted? (I can always find ways to have my cheese and eat it too ;)

Recipes to come later this week.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Gyoza, Japanese dumplings
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Gyoza are one of S's favourite foods from childhood. They are little Japanese dumplings made from ground pork, Napa cabbage and ginger, and then pan-fried and steamed. S and I always make them together because they are really a two-person job. We make a few panfuls and eat as much as we can as a main meal. This is his mother's recipe, and it's very delicious.

Gyoza, Japanese dumplings, howto
The gyoza assembly line.

Printable version

Prep time: 30 to 40 minutes
Cooking time: about 25 minutes per panful
Serves six to eight people as a side or three to four as a main.

350 g ground pork
1 onion, medium-sized and diced
a hunk of ginger, finely minced (as you would garlic)
8 large leaves of Napa cabbage (hakusai in Japanese), thinly sliced
6 mushrooms, minced, preferably shiitake
1 egg
1 Tbsp sugar
a couple of pinches of salt

gyoza wrappers (preferably pre-floured, Double Happiness brand is good)
bowl of water
1 human finger!

Dipping sauce
1 part soy sauce
1 part rice vineagar
a few drops of La-Yu oil (a kind of hot sesame oil with chillis)

Mix all ingredients for the filling together in a big bowl.

You need gyoza wrappers from a Japanese or Korean market. Double Happiness is one of many brands you might find. Gyoza wrappers are small and round, they're about the width of your palm. Lay out 12 wrappers on a cutting board. Scoop a tablespoon or so of the mixture in the centre of each wrapper. The exact amount you find easy to work with may take a bit of trial and error.

This next part takes practice! This is the difficult part. Dip your one human finger in the water and wet a ring around the edge of the wrapper. Timing is important. Do about six wrappers at once. Now dry your finger. Next, fold each wrapper in half, pressing the wet edges together. Lay the closed gyozas aside on a plate with the seams facing up. Finish making your gyoza until you have enough to fill the frying pan you will be using, as shown in this Wikipedia photo.

The hard part is getting the right amount of water on the wrapper. You want the wetness to be just right when you fold it together. If it's too wet, it'll stick to your fingers and fall apart. If it's too dry, it won't stick to anything at all.

Put some vegetable oil in your frying pan and turn up the heat to medium. When the pan is hot, start putting in the gyozas by hand. Drag each gyoza in the oil to coat both sides as you place them. This will keep them from sticking together. Continue until you fill the pan. Then pour about one centimetre of water into the bottom of the pan. Put the lid on and let them cook 15 to 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take off the lid but keep the heat on. Now you want them to dry out and brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

As the first panful is cooking, make the dipping sauce and prep the second batch of gyozas. You can refrigerate the filling for one day and make the rest tomorrow, but don't freeze it.

When the gyozas have browned nicely, let them cool a bit, slide them all out onto a big serving plate, and serve with the dipping sauce.

Gyoza, Japanese dumplings, howto
Little gyozas waiting for their steam treatment.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Linguine with clams

delicious linguine with clams, seafood pasta
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I'm still on a seafood kick, so we made some linguine with clams the other day. It was yummy. Those winey, clammy juices really tasted like the sea. The whole meal reminded me of summer and made me happy that winter is ending.

It seems there are two golden rules when it comes to cooking with clams: Before cooking, throw any out that are open, and after cooking, throw any out that are closed.

We kept our clams in a metal bowl in the fridge, but S's father, an expert cook when it comes to seafood, told us of a better way to store clams. He recommended we put them in salted water, a solution of 3.2 per cent (for example, 32 grams salt per litre of water). Keep them on the counter at room temperature. These conditions mimic their natural environment and they will even put out their little feet and do their thing happily. I will have to try this next time.

delicious linguine with clams, seafood pasta
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Linguine with clams
Printable version

serves two
prep and cooking time: 30-45 minutes

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
30 clams (15 per person)
one small onion, finely diced)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried red chilli pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/3 cup pasta cooking water
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
zest of one lemon
salt and pepper
additional lemon wedges for garnish

substitutions/variations: spaghetti for linguine, olive oil for butter or vice versa, onions and red chillis are optional (but really make it better!), I have also seen this recipe with cherry tomatoes and bacon added

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook some linguine until al dente.

While the pasta water comes to a boil, rinse the clams in cold water in the sink. Discard any that have opened.

Wait until you've added the linguine to the pot before cooking the clams because the sauce doesn't take long. While it's cooking, reserve about 1/3 cup of the cooking water.

In your largest, high-sided frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the diced onions and chilli pepper and saute for two minutes, until the onions are starting to soften. Add the minced garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, taking care not to burn.

Add the clams, half of the chopped parsley and all of the white wine and cover the frying pan until the clams have opened, which will take between two to six minutes. Discard any clams that have stayed shut.

Add the cooked linguine to the clams and the butter and some of the pasta water. Mix gently into the clam mixture until the butter has slicked over the noodles.

Sprinkle over with grated lemon zest and the rest of the chopped parsley. Serve with additional lemon wedges.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Salmon sushi

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We made lovely sushi at home for our Valentine's Day seafood dinner. Big thick slices of salmon on nice pudgy rice balls! They turned out so well. The salmon was from Pelican Grill and tasted very buttery.

S found a sushi rice recipe online: we made rice in the rice cooker and then mixed in some water, sugar, salt and rice wine vinegar. We also put a little strip of wasabi on the top of the rice ball before laying down the salmon.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Angry hakusai

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This hakusai (Napa cabbage) was waiting to be made into gyoza, but we didn't get around to it for three weeks. Now he's angry hakusai because we bought a fresh one for our gyoza night!

(Stay tuned for the recipe coming soon.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Oysters on the half shell

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There are two foods on this Earth for which I will stop all conversation.

The first is the harusame salad at Ichibei. Such is my love for it that I have shamelessly stolen bigger bowls of the stuff placed before my friends (sorry Squeaky, but some things can't be helped!) and swapped them for my own smaller portion.

The second is raw oysters on the half shell. Oh my goodness. So so good, I can't talk while I'm eating them.

We bought these raw oysters at Pelican Grill for our belated Valentine's Day dinner. We had never prepared raw oysters before, but S did a wonderful job with our new shuckers, bought just that afternoon at Chef's Paradise. (Yours truly had just come back from getting a manicure with Squeaky and thus had a good excuse to be hands off for the task ;)

We ate them with just a little lemon juice, chopped parsley and seafood cocktail sauce. I closed my eyes and felt so spoiled. Such a decadent treat!

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Edamame infused with Asian spices

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Although I love to eat edamame plain, this is also a really nice way to make it. The secret is lots and lots of ginger. I keep a piece of ginger root in my freezer and just grate it from frozen.

I combined a few cups of water with about an inch of grated ginger and its juice, a couple of star anise (you could also use fennel seeds or toss in some fresh fennel pieces), a teaspoon of soy sauce, a splash of mirin and a few drops of chili sesame oil. When the water boiled, I added a package of frozen edamame still in the pod and simmered them for 10 minutes and then drained and salted them. You're not supposed to eat the pods, just suck on them and squeeze them in your mouth until they break, and then eat the soybeans inside. So gingery and so good!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Belated Valentine's Day seafood feast

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S and I celebrated Valentine's Day a little late this year but our homemade seafood feast was certainly worth the wait. It didn't require much cooking and came together pretty quickly since we shared the prep.

We made edamame infused with Asian spices, fresh oysters on the half shell with parsley, lemon and cocktail sauce, and salmon sushi with soy sauce and wasabi. The only cooking involved was boiling the edamame and pressing a button on a rice cooker!

It was such a delicious meal. Try it and let me know what you think. I'll share the recipes in the coming week.

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