Monday, December 17, 2012

Thai coconut chicken soup

One rotisserie chicken goes a long way. I bought one last weekend and we had it four ways: a Friday night dinner of drumsticks and fries with Swiss Chalet sauce from a package, then chicken breast and arugula baguette sandwiches for lunches, then homemade chicken stock and the rest of the meat to make this soup!

Thai coconut chicken soup

4 cups chicken stock
1 400-ml can unsweetened coconut milk
2 small red chiles, finely sliced and no seeds
1 lemongrass stalk, cut into long pieces
3 Tbsp fish sauce (or soy sauce, but then omit the salt)
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
pinch of salt
6 cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded 
juice of half a lime
3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Bring the chicken stock and coconut milk to a boil in a stock pot.

Reduce heat and add the chiles, lemongrass, fish sauce, ginger and salt. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Add in the mushrooms, chicken and lime juice. Simmer for five minutes. Remove the lemongrass and sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fish chowder with onion and cheddar scones

Our parents took turns staying with us after the babies were born. They cooked for us and we were so thankful because we had no time to feed ourselves. After a week of gross hospital food, home cooking tasted incredible! They're all great cooks. This soup is among my favourites from those early days with newborns. It's my mom's recipe and it's delicious, filling and comforting.

You can use any fish but it's best to do a combo of sturdy fishes (halibut, tilapia, monkfish, lobster, etc.) and delicate ones, like haddock and sole. The sturdy fishes hold together to add chunkiness, whereas the delicate ones fall apart and add to the texture of the broth. My mom added a small piece of smoked fish, which took the flavour to an even deeper dimension. I recently made this again with onion and cheddar scones from Joy of Cooking.

Fish chowder

olive oil for frying
two medium onions, finely chopped
three celery stalks, finely chopped
torn celery leaves
two medium carrots, finely chopped
small new potatoes, I used one bag of "little gems", quartered
assorted fishes — haddock, turbot, B.C. perch, small piece of smoked haddock, cut into chunks
evaporated milk, one can
milk (same amount as evaporated milk)
herbs — two bay leaves, basil, herbes de Provence, oregano
one carton fish or chicken stock
one Tbsp flour, or enough to thicken the broth
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot on medium heat, fry the onion, carrot and celery stalks in oil until soft. Add the potatoes, pepper and herbs (save the salt for the end as you might not need it).

Add the fish or chicken stock and enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes and veggies are soft.

Add the evaporated milk and milk, bring up to a simmer, then add the fish. Stir often to prevent burning in the bottom.

Pour a little bit of extra milk in a lidded container and add the flour. Fasten the lid tightly and shake to dissolve the flour. (If lumpy, pour into pot through a sieve.) Simmer until thickened. Add celery leaves and salt to taste. Stir continuously to prevent burning and serve when thickened.

Monday, October 29, 2012

High tea at the Mackenzie King Tearoom

S and I visited the Mackenzie King Tearoom for high tea this summer. S had a delicious gazpacho and salad, but the purpose of the trip was to satisfy my pregnancy-induced craving for high tea. Decadent me!

I ordered their Afternoon Tea, which is tea, sandwiches, a scone and sweets for $21. All I really wanted was the scone with clotted cream and raspberry jam, but I found I also really loved the fudges and the sandwiches, mmm. There were five different sandwiches with the crusts off in true high-tea tradition. Some of them had watercress inside them, which tasted lovely and peppery. I must look for that in the stores — I think it came in the tuna sandwich and it was a great combination.

It was an extremely hot day and we were on the patio, which is delightful and overlooks the gardens on the estate. We had to switch tables mid-meal to get some shade. Normally I love the heat, but not while pregnant!

The tearoom is in Gatineau Park in one of the former prime minister's cottages. It's open May to October, and is a scenic and peaceful spot. I'm already looking forward to another visit next summer!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Indian curries and a stocked freezer

I have to give a big shout-out to my Mom and L for stocking our freezer while I was pregnant with twins! My babies were born this summer – and have big appetites thanks to all the good food they ate while still inside me.

What a treat it was to eat my mom's cooking every day once again. I haven't had this privilege since high school when I was still living at home and didn't appreciate her cooking as much as I should have. Even the best restaurants have nothing on her.   

I love you, Mom. And I hope one day that my kids will love my cooking as much as I do yours.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sweet potato and white bean soup

This is a great tasting soup. It's a Jill Dupleix recipe that I modified. Her recipe is here. I didn't have curry powder, so I substituted ground cumin and coriander instead. I also added bay leaves and a parmesan rind to the stock while the sweet potatoes were cooking, just to up the flavour ante. I topped it with a swirl of sour cream, paprika and olive oil, and scattered over some fresh coriander. This soup is nice at lunchtime when served with some crusty bread.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Spinach and cheese ravioli in rose sauce

I love this pasta because it's quick, delicious and only five ingredients! I saw this on a Giada de Laurentiis show. It's good lazy-day food that looks gorgeous when served up family-style on a big platter. I just use frozen spinach-and-cheese ravioli because it's my favourite, but you could also use tortellini or gnocchi. Now's a good time to make this recipe because of all the fresh summer-sweet basil that's available.

Spinach and cheese ravioli in rose sauce

one package frozen spinach-and-cheese ravioli
half a tall jar of marinara sauce
one cup ricotta cheese
a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
half a cup of grated parmesan cheese

Boil the pasta in a big pot according to package directions, taking care not to overcook because you will be combining the pasta with the hot sauce, which will cook it a bit more. Drain and set aside.

Pour the marinara sauce into a big, high-sided frying pan and heat. Once it's warmed through, add the ricotta cheese and stir to blend until smooth, about a couple of minutes. Just before serving, add half of the torn basil to the sauce and mix together until the leaves are wilted.

Slide the cooked pasta into a serving platter and top with sauce, grated parmesan cheese and remaining fresh basil leaves for garnish. Serve right away with garlic bread.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Zucchini boats with bacon and cheese

I've been making tasty little zucchini boats for lunch the past couple of days. They are really simple to prepare. Cooking the zucchinis really brings out their sweet taste and makes them juicy, and the filling is just so crunchy and flavourful. You really can't go wrong with bacon and cheese!  

Zucchini boats with bacon and cheese
serves two

one zucchini, cut lengthwise
two rashers of bacon, finely diced
one shallot, finely diced
handful of breadcrumbs (I like panko)
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided
olive oil for frying

Preheat the oven to 375.

Scoop out the flesh from the insides of the zucchini halves, leaving the skin whole. There should be about a quarter-inch border of flesh and skin remaining. Chop up the zucchini centres into a fine dice.

Saute the diced bacon in a frying pan until it starts to soften and release some fat. Add the shallot and cook two minutes until softened. Add the zucchini and stir for a couple of minutes until soft. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until they have taken up the moisture from the pan. Add most of the grated cheese, reserving some for garnish. Mix well and take off the heat.

In a small casserole dish, add an inch or two of water. Place the zucchini boats in the water, cut side up. Make sure the water level is not so high as to flood into the boats. Take them out and set aside - that was just a test!

Stuff each zucchini boat with the mixture from the frying pan. Place the boats carefully back into the casserole dish with water, and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then uncover and garnish with the rest of the cheese. Cook for another five minutes uncovered until cheese melts before serving.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pho Ga Sate at Nho Saigon

This is the Pho Ga Sate at Nho Saigon in Marda Loop, a neighbourhood in Calgary. It's sooo spicy and peanuty. I get mine with a pineapple milkshake, which is a refreshing contrast to the spiciness.

Nho Saigon
Marda Loop
2111, 33 ave sw
Calgary, AB T2T

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chicken salad with arugula, oranges and almonds

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The chicken in this salad is deliciously crispy and caramelized because of the skin. We deboned chicken thighs prior to cooking, but kept the skin on. For some reason I cannot find thighs with skin but no bones - they seem to come either with or without both. If anyone knows where to get them deboned/skin on, please let me know! Until then I'll continue to do it this way - deboning's a bit of work, but well worth it for the flavour and crispiness.  

Chicken salad with arugula, oranges and almonds
Serves two
a couple of handfuls of arugula
one orange
a few artichokes from a jar
handful of almonds
two chicken thighs
dijon mustard
ponzu sauce (a Japanese citrus dressing)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Prepare the chicken by deboning the thighs, but leaving the skin on. Turn skin side up on the cutting board, and season the skin side with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan on medium heat. Do not add oil because you will be frying the chicken in the fat from its own skin. When the pan is hot, add the chicken thighs skin side down. Let them cook about two-thirds of the way up, until they curl up and start to brown and crisp up. While they are cooking, season the other side of the thighs now facing up in the pan.

When the skin side is cooked, turn the thighs over and cook the other side for another five minutes or so. When cooked, remove from pan and place on a plate to rest. Slice each thigh into pieces that you put on top of the salad.  

Prepare the salad by washing and drying the arugula, peeling and slicing the orange, and halving the artichoke quarters. Roughly chop the almonds and lightly toast in a frying pan. Tip the almonds onto a cutting board to cool as soon as they have finished to prevent them from browning further in the pan. Put all of these ingredients in a big salad bowl.

 Prepare the dressing by mixing a little bit of Dijon mustard with a couple Tablespoons of ponzu sauce, and add olive oil to make into a dressing consistency. Pour over salad and toss. Top with chicken slices and serve.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rustic potato rösti for breakfast - yay weekends!

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This is my weekend morning potato specialty. It's a rustic rösti adapted from Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie, the best recipe I've found for this Swiss specialty. It takes a bit of time, but so do most good things in life, so I don't mind.

Rösti is of Swiss origin where the farmers of yesteryear used to eat it for breakfast, according to Wikipedia. Thankfully it has since been adopted worldwide by potato lovers like my friend the Film Cricket, who first introduced me to rösti at Toronto's Marché Movenpick (now Richtree), where they serve it with sour cream and chives. So yummy. Now when I make it for breakfast, we eat with eggs, bacon and toast. Equally scrumptious.

Potato rösti
serves two

one russet potato
one clove garlic
one sprig rosemary (whole)
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400. Wash and peel the potato. Top and tail it, and cut it in half. Cut each half into thin matchsticks. Rinse the rosemary sprig. Peel the garlic clove (I smash it with the flat of my chef's knife so that it cracks a bit but is still essentially whole).

Heat up a non-stick, ovenproof frying pan. Add a splash of olive oil and heat. Melt a tablespoon of butter into the olive oil. Add the potatoes, the garlic clove and the rosemary sprig. Stir in the pan for 10 minutes until softened and starting to colour.

Put in the oven for 25 minutes until crispy and golden. I check it after this, and sometimes cook it maybe 10 minutes more.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Herbed goat cheese balls with crostini

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Squeaky and Calimocho had a big party last night, the kind where you end up drinking in the hallway with strangers and bond over games of "Who's your gross-celebrity crush?" (Rules: They can't have ever been a heartthrob material and you have to imagine yourself kissing them.) I pondered this with a wonderful mixture of curlers, writers, engineers and advertisers. S and I brought this tasty appetizer, which is a recipe from Giada de Laurentiis's Everyday Italian cooking show. I bought her Extra Easy Italian DVD set over Christmas and have been enjoying watching her again. Since we discontinued cable I've been missing her shows, so I hope they keep releasing more.
one baguette
one large log of snow white goat cheese, soft or semi-firm
zest of one lemon
a handful each of fresh herbs (your choice, but I used rosemary, curly parsley, oregano and thyme)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Slice a baguette on the diagonal, then place slices on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes.  

Cheese balls
Finely chop all of the herbs and place in a bowl. Add a sprinkling of salt and some coarsely ground pepper, and the zest of one lemon. Stir well. Form little pinches of the goats cheese into balls with your hands and roll each ball in the herb mixture to coat. Once all the cheese balls are rolled, arrange them in a little pyramid in the centre of a serving platter, and place the crostini on the outside. Drizzle the cheese balls with olive oil and serve.

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