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Hello, everyone. It’s been a while. So long, in fact, that people are volunteering to write things for this blog just because they’re so sick of not seeing any new content. Below is a blog entry graciously written by my accident-prone brother Lars. He and his wife just got an amazing accident-dog, who needs to be walked for three hours a day to keep him from making trouble in the house. Since I have no good photos of the food Lars wrote about, I would like to present Lars and Amy’s dog Teddy, who was not allowed in the kitchen while we were cooking:

My name is Lars, and I have a bad habit of getting myself into all sorts of painful situations.  Amazingly, up until very recently, I have never broken a bone in my body.

I have fallen down the stairs (just learning to walk), used paint thinner as a mouthwash (learned to walk – found garage), been hit in the head with a golf club (elementary school), gotten smacked with a skateboard to the nose (don’t ask how – junior high) and the list goes on.  Hell, I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck.

For a time, I seemed to avoid my accidents. Went to Montreal for university, no accidents*. Got married, bought a home, a car, and some cats. No accidents.  Then, after years of pain-free living, I cut off the tip of my left index finger and barely escaped with all the rest of the fingers on that hand while working with a piece of hardwood flooring for my home (and since I technically sawed through the finger, I maintain that does not count as a “broken” bone). Eventually it healed up, I stayed away from table-saws for awhile, promised my wife I would NEVER do it again, and fell back into regular life.  That was a year and a half ago. The only real change was my ability to pretend to stick my finger really deep into my nose without actually sticking my finger in my nose.   Yippee.

Hanne and Carlo have been excessively busy lately, so when I called them up in early April to plan an evening of cooking and eating, Hanne suggested making a few large scale meals that we could freeze in small portions for easy convenience food while she is stuck working 18 hour days.  Great idea!

The next day I broke my promise to my wife, and got my hand caught up in a gear on a machine at work, and found myself once again in the emergency room for severe damage to my left hand.  For the first time I broke a bone, in the tip of my middle finger.  I also lost a chunk of the ring finger.  My wife is not impressed.

The best part about food is that it tastes good even if your hand is mangled. So we decided to go forward with our mega meal project.  I am not going to claim any credit for deciding what was going to be made, as painkillers can make the brain a little fuzzy.  It was settled we would make split pea soup, cook-from-frozen chicken pot pie, and freezer cookies.  You can’t get better homey food than that!

Although I helped grill up some burgers for sustenance while Hanne, Carlo, and my wife, Amy, worked, I also won’t take credit for any of the cooking, except maybe calming Hanne’s nerves while she was dealing with the pastry for the pie – she has a silly habit of getting very worked up and worried about the food she is making, convincing herself that it will not turn out (I think it’s actually a complex plan to make the food taste even better when it comes out perfect every time).  True to our tradition, we ended up cooking past midnight, and Hanne and Carlo had to finish everything up early the next morning.  We ended up leaving with more than 40 servings of food.

The pies were engineered to be baked from frozen**, and they came out better than I ever imagined.  Hanne threw a bunch of smoked paprika into the pastry, which added a wonderful undertone to the melt-in-your-mouth crust.  I have never eaten a better chicken pot pie.  Delicious!

For the soup, we knew it would be improper to make split pea soup without using a whole ham bone.  We bought a ham that was way too big but ended up with plenty of leftover meat that we saved for sandwiches and such.  Talk about leftovers! The best part about split pea soup is how little of it you need to feel completely full and satisfied.

If any of you happen to find yourselves short 2.5 fingers and want some easy, delicious food, here is my prescription for the best ever cook from frozen food chicken pot pie and split pea soup:

-Find other people who love to cook

-Convince them to make food for you

-Reheat delicious food when hungry

*the big sister in me would like to note that while in Montreal Lars did develop a mysteriously swollen and painful big toe (weird, right) that no doctor could figure out or fix. That wasn’t an accident, really, but I just want to underline the fact that this stuff follows him around.

**the secret to these pot pies was the filling, which was a bit soupier than you’d make it if you were baking it straight away. The extra moisture allowed for the longer cooking time necessary. If you’re trying this at home, please note that the pastry wasn’t cooked in advance either. Total cooking time was about 1.5 hours from frozen at 400 degrees. We kept the pies covered with foil for the first half of the cooking time and then uncovered them to brown the pastry on top.

Look, a well-stocked freezer! Pot pies on the left, chicken stock on the right. You can't see the pea soup, but that's okay because the picture's ugly anyway.

Today I have a series of photos for you in the style of Betty Crocker, circa 1965 (at least I think that’s what they look like. Sunsets at 4:30 kind of interfere with natural light). The recipe isn’t circa 1965, though. With its chipotle barbecue sauce, it’s more of a 2003 kind of thing.

I decided today that Carlo should come home from work to a nice meal today, the kind of meal that he loves. Luckily its a new job and he’s on good behavior and won’t be online, so I can tell you without ruining the treat for him.This is a recipe we’ve had before, an introduction from our best food friends who made it for us back when we lived in Montreal (hi B + G!).

While I love pork and I love ribs, this is definitely a Carlo recipe. The ribs, first marinated in a dry rub, cook slowly at low heat until they’re tender, glistening in fat, and then they’re wrapped in a tomato-chipotle dress and put back into the oven until the sauce has sunk in. I like fat as much as anyone, but not as much as Carlo. It’s impossible to love it as much as Carlo does.

I’m roasting a couple sweet potatoes and some brussels sprouts to go on the side, and I think those two will help me feel that this meal is virtuous.

Carlo’s going to sit down to this meal and when he takes a bite, his forehead will furrow at a small point between his eyebrows, and his eyes will almost-but-not-quite close, and he’ll be very quiet for a second, and then his face will clear and he’ll look up from his ribs and say “wow.” And that will be the sign that I look for, that combination of actions meaning that he’s happy and completely content. And that’s why I’m making ribs.

Baked Pork Ribs with Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from Bonnie Stern

4 strips of back ribs (I used about 2 lbs, but more would be better), shiny membrane on backside removed

Dry Rub:
2 Tbsp. smoked paprika (regular is fine too, but smoked adds some heat and interest)
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dry mustard

Barbecue Sauce:
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
2-3 chipotle peppers
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Combine spice rub ingredients in a small bowl and rub them into ribs. Put the ribs into a shallow dish, cover, and set aside to marinate at room temperature for an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet/pan with foil. Place marinated ribs in a single layer on pan, cover with more foil, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.

While ribs are cooking, assemble your barbecue sauce by placing all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pureeing.

When 1 1/2 hours is up, remove ribs from oven, pour off the fat that has collected at the bottom of the pan, and then pour barbecue sauce over them, turning them over in the baking pan to ensure that they’re well-coated. Be generous with your sauce! Turn up the heat to 400 F and put ribs back in oven, uncovered, cooking for another 1/2 hour.

Sometimes I feel sorry for Carlo. I’m not always easy to deal with. I read a lot (too much), and get intensely interested in whatever I’ve learned. That’s cool, but I’m also impatient. When I learn about something new, I usually need to try it right away. Carlo’s the best. He’s very patient with my whims and hardly scolds me when my obsessions lead me to buy four bottles of rum in the space of a month. Honestly, though, I felt justified. As I was doing research for this, I discovered all kinds of exciting things about rum, and then I had to try all the different kinds. This obsession led me to dark rum, which led me to what we had for dinner this weekend.

Bermuda Fish Chowder has a tomato rather than a milk base, and is rich, sweet, and satisfying, without being unhealthy. Plus, its rich flavour is complemented with a generous glug of rum. I’m not big on fish soup, as I find very fishy flavours unpleasant, so I was pleased that this soup had nice clean flavours, and the fish was tasty instead of overwhelming. I suppose the lightness of the fish was due to the fish I used– basa, snapper, and cod, along with scallops and shrimp. Also, the soup had a good amount of spiciness, thanks to red chili flakes and a jalapeno (the original recipe called for sherry pepper sauce, which I didn’t have, so I improvised with some sherry vinegar and the addition of the peppers).

Bermuda Fish Chowder
Adapted from epicurious.com. See the original here
While this chowder isn’t difficult, it is time-consuming. If you plan to eat it the same day, allow 2-2 1/2 hours total time before eating. And if your husband wants to practice his cooking-course knife skills, make sure you start well in advance (completely uniform veg in this soup IS very pleasant, I must add).

1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 leek (white and pale green parts only), chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup canned, diced tomato or 1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tsp. salt

2 cups bottled clam juice
6 cups water

3 lb mixed white fish fillets such as cod, snapper, and basa, (feel free to improvise), skin and bones removed and cut into large chunks
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole allspice, tied in a cheesecloth bag (I used ground, and added it directly to the pot)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled, or a couple sprigs of fresh thyme
1 jalapeno, diced small(optional)
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste
3 tablespoons cornstarch stirred together with 3 tablespoons water to make a slurry

1/2 lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 lb. scallops
2 to 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup dark rum, or to taste

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, or to taste. (feel free to leave this out, or substitute the real thing– sherry pepper sauce)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the onion, bell pepper, leek, carrots,tomato, and garlic in butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 10 minutes. Toss in red pepper flakes, and salt, cooking for 1 more minute. Stir in clam juice and water and bring to a boil. After the soup is boiling, simmer it briskly, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Stir in the fish, tomato paste, bay leaf, allspice, thyme, jalapeno (if using), hot pepper sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 20 minutes (fish will break up), then add cornstarch slurry (make sure it’s stirred and the cornstarch hasn’t clumped in the bottom) and stir into chowder. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Stir in scallops, shrimp, Worcestershire sauce, and rum and gently simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let chowder stand, covered, 1 hour (or better yet, overnight). Return your chowder to a simmer, then add a touch of sherry vinegar (to taste).

Well… not so daring pizza. Putting tomatoes, cheese and oregano on top of a crust and stopping there does not equal adventurous. But I did throw my pizza dough in the air, and I figure that’s daring enough. Please excuse the blurry photo. We did our pizza in the evening, and it’s getting dark SO early now. The winter darkness is coming!


As anyone who reads food blogs knows by now, this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, which was hosted by Rosa at Rosa’s Yummy Yums, was pizza dough, a recipe that required two days of waiting and nearly no work, except for the exciting part where I threw pizza dough all around the kitchen. Highlights include: dropping dough on the ground, and finally figuring out how to toss pizza without throwing it on the ground, and being happy that my kitchen floor is clean (yes, we ate it anyway). Oh, and a home-made evening. With our pizza, we drank beer that Carlo and my dad made (post from Carlo soon, I hope). ON our pizza we had oregano we grew ourselves this summer, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes made by a (very excellent, obviously) friend, and…. home made mozzarella! Yes, we made cheese. It was the highlight of the cooking course we just finished. More on this very, very soon, as my camera is heavy-laden with cheese photos. The dough was a Peter Reinhart recipe, and I was very impressed. It was soft and very easy to work with (except for its tendency to fly around the kitchen while I was tossing it, which, in fairness, I can’t blame on the dough), with fantastic flavour. The final product managed to be tender and crispy at the same time, and very, tantalizingly, wonderfully thin.


We used this sauce: Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce 1 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained 6 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, (use more or less to your taste) 3-4 cloves of roasted garlic (click link for garlic-roasting technique) salt to taste Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, pulse them a few times, taste and adjust seasoning to taste. That’s it! Here’s the dough recipe: Basic Pizza Dough 6 Pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter). 608 g Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled 1 3/4 Tsp Salt 1 Tsp Instant yeast 60 g Olive oil or vegetable oil 420 g Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C) 1 Tb sugar Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting As we are just two, I reduced the recipe as follows: makes 1 big or 2 pizza crusts 250 g flour 5 g salt 1 tsp gluten 1/4 tsp instant yeast 1 tb olive oil 140 g water, ice cold 1 tsp sugar DAY ONE Method: 1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer). 2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water. NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C. 3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper. 4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas). NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts. 5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball. NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again. 6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap. 7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days. NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator. DAY TWO 8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours. 9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan. 10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss. NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time. During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method. 11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan. 12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice. NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient. 13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes. NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly. 14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Did you think we were gone? We’re still here, though it seems that we’re barely eating and barely keeping up with life as we anticipate some big changes that all of a sudden are sitting there like mountains, just feet away. Oops.

Anyway, I’m breaking the silence to tell you about Arfi and her interesting blog HomemadeS. After having so much fun browsing through someone’s back recipes with last month’s Taste and Create, hosted by For the Love of Food, I couldn’t wait to play again. This month I got to browse through an exotic (to me, anyway) collection of recipes. Arfi posts a lot of Indonesian recipes, and I can’t wait to go through her archive and do some more cooking. Bubur Injit, Sambar Telur Manis, and Empal Panggang are on my must-try list now, but I have to admit that I settled on slightly less adventurous choices. I couldn’t resist making two things: corn fritters and ginger tea.

The corn fritters were lovely. Arfi brought exciting flavour to a nice simple base of corn, flour, and egg with the addition of crispy fried shallots, feta, and celery leaves. Yum! I can’t wait to make them again. The only change I made to her recipe was the addition of some buttermilk, which I added because I found the mixture a bit too dry to work with. I liked the tangy flavour it added, and I thought it went well with the creamy feta. We ate the fritters alongside tomato soup.

After finding the corn fritter recipe, I did some more digging and found a recipe for ginger tea concentrate. Again, nice and simple with a great result. I mixed the concentrate with straight lemon juice and diluted it with water in a one-to-one ratio. I loved the combo of lemony sour, spicy ginger, and sweet palm sugar. I just wish it were summer, so I could appreciate it from a sun-dappled picnic table in a park somewhere. Thanks so much, Arfi!

There’s been a theme to my last few posts. I’ll give you a second to go back and check, if you want. Booze, dessert, syrup, pasta. Yeah… we’ve been putting lemon in everything.

Well, if you’re looking for a change of pace, I’ve got none to offer. And I’m not apologizing, because I think this next recipe is another great use of lemon. Try it, you’ll like it.

First, an intro: this month I signed up for a great event called Taste & Create, at For the Love of Food. Participants get matched up with another blog, and you both go through each other’s archives and find a recipe to recreate. I love this idea and I can’t wait to do it again. You should do it too!

We were lucky to be paired with Andreea and Mark of Glorious Food and Wine. I loved paging through their posts (ahem.. and felt a little guilty about the blog’s wealth of recipes. Unfortunately for Andreea, she had a much smaller pool of recipes at SiS to choose from). I love the casual “toss some of this in, throw together some of that” feel of the blog, and the photos are great! There was so much to choose from, but I settled on some plain old potatoes. Well. Not so plain.

Rustic Anchovies Potatoes caught my eye. It’s got something I’ve never tried before (how have I gone this many years without anchovies?), and it’s got lemon. Two of my hangups in one recipe equals something I must try.

I wanted to make sure that I could taste the lemon, so I fiddled a bit. While Andreea and Mark’s guidelines call for a lemon roasted with the potatoes, I went one step further. After roasting the potatoes with a quartered lemon, I tossed the finished product in a little sauce made from a bit of lemon juice (maybe half a tablespoon) mixed with diced anchovies. It worked out great! The sour of the lemons and umami of the anchovies were a nice mix, and made ordinary roasted potatoes into something that tasted entirely new. Hooray!

instere-ere-ereo.jpg

Hey, Carlo here. And look! A new feature. Don’t go holding me to it just because I made a banner.

So Hanne keeps signing SiS up to blogging groups, which is great, but my non-participation makes me feel (and likely look) like the sort of curmudgeonly husband who sends his wife off to dinner parties alone because there’s a very important hockey game on and beer in the fridge. No, pointing out that the Oilers have no more important games left in them this season is not helpful.

Anyway. Here is our supper in stereo:

I pan fried “don’t call me deer if I’m dead” venison steaks smothered in half a log of Anthony Bourdain’s red wine compound butter (see Ruhlman). We always have a store of the butter in the freezer for last minute steaks. It’s like insta-marinade. I’ll post the recipe sometime.

The wine butter’s palate smack was nearly too much for the gamey/muddy taste of the deer steak (I guess that does sound weird). If it wasn’t for the roasted potato and anchovies turning the steak’s aftertaste on its head with its fishy citrus bite, I might not have enjoyed this meal as much as I did. Frankly, at first bite I didn’t like the potatoes much either, but they grew on me quick. I guess I wasn’t expecting such complex flavours out of meat and potatoes. We rounded out the plate with glazed carrots. Their sweetness helped level off the major umami busting off the other two thirds of the dish. Despite my initial skepticism, it turned out to be a great meal.

Oh yeah. The carrots were glazed with Meyer lemon honey. They were great, but I swear I now know there can be too much of a good thing. Okay Hanne? Next time life gives you more lemons than you know what to do with, use the freezer.

Anyway, thanks to the other blog for supplying us with the recipe. Oh and hey other blog, tell the other other blogs I’m not actually a big unsociable jerk, okay?

When we went through customs in Toronto, I dutifully filled out the customs form, checking off the little box that said we were bringing food items into Canada. When we passed the customs officer, he asked me what kind of food we had with us. I started off dutifully, listing “Lemons, dried chiles, some cheese, some vinegars….” (actually three vinegars–sherry, grapefruit, and sugar cane. Cool, huh?). Then the full magnitude of our food purchases hit me and I trailed off in embarrassment. I was sure he’d judge us, so I didn’t mention the chocolates, tapioca pearls, pistachios, dried cherries, dried apricots, Valhrona cocoa powder, dried sweetened hibiscus flowers (!), chile-spiced mangoes… you get the idea.

Anyway, the star of our food haul has got to be these:

Aren’t they lovely? And so free! My very generous and food-loving uncle and aunt have a Meyer lemon tree in their backyard. Every time I say that sentence it gives me little jealousy pangs. Do you know how much a Meyer lemon costs in Montreal? Ahem. Two dollars and fifty cents. For one lemon. If you can even find one in this city, which is rare as these guys don’t transport all that well. Count the lemons in that bag. Do the math. And the ones I can find around here aren’t even fresh. Or big. They’re puny, wizened little things. These lemons are bursting with juice and flavour and scent. Owen and Gabrielle, thank you so much!

To prove we’re putting these lemons to good use, I offer you the following recipe. It’s from Amanda Hesser’s “Cooking for Mr. Latte,” which I find to be hit-or-miss. I’ve made a few stinkers from the book, but this one’s a definite hit. The peppery arugula and rich crème fraîche are livened up by a hit of herbal meyer lemon tang, and the sauce coats the pasta perfectly.

I suspect the above image isn’t beautiful, but I can’t tell because it just reminds me of the flavour of this pasta, which definitely was beautiful. Here’s the recipe.

MEYER LEMON CREME FRAICHE LINGUINE adapted from “Cooking For Mr. Latte” by Amanda Hesser

Cooking notes: mise-en-place is very important here. Make sure everything is prepped in advance, as this pasta cools down quickly and thus must be eaten immediately upon preparation. It makes a great first course. I can also imagine it going very well with chicken.

Salt
1 pound of linguine
a chunk of Parmesan (to be grated)
2 Meyer lemons
3 large handfuls of arugula, cleaned and roughly chopped
1/2 cup crème fraîche*
freshly ground black pepper

Bring water to boil in a large pot. When the water is boiling rapidly, add salt (generously) and then the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, grate a handful of parmesan into a large bowl and zest the two lemons into the bowl. Add the arugula to this bowl as well. Juice one of the lemons and reserve the juice**.

When the pasta is cooked (make sure it’s still al dente), quickly drain it and add it to the serving bowl that’s holding the cheese and lemon zest. Don’t worry about getting the pasta completely dry. It should be slicked with water, as that will help thin out the cheese and the thick crème fraîche to a tossable consistency. Next, add the lemon juice and toss again. Last, add the crème fraîche and continue to toss well, until the sauce is well-distributed, the arugula is wilted, the the cheese is melty. Grind some pepper into all this and toss once more. Serve immediately.

*crème fraîche is expensive! If you want to make your own, at a slightly better price and with the satisfaction of do-it-yourself, here’s a recipe. I confess I’ve never tried it, but it does sound nice and simple.

**Please don’t throw away the other lemon’s juice. If nothing else, you can boil it with water in a one-to-one ratio to make a great simple syrup to add to gin for a nice cocktail– more on this in a later post.

A good lunch gives a bored desk jobber something to look forward to. And nuking the office with a spice packed chicken curry? It warms my cantankerous heart. This one raised such a stink that it cleared the dead aired office, making the rest of the staff hungry and heading for the basement cafeteria.

Here’s Vij Family’s Chicken Curry from Vij’s Indian Cuisine. This one got so much attention coming out of the work microwave that I messaged Hanne at home and told her to quick take a picture before she finished her leftovers. Like most Indian recipes, it’s ingredient and step intensive. But it’s well worth the effort. Serves 4-6 or 2 dinners + 2 next day lunches.

1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups chopped onions
3-inch stick of cinnamon
3 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced ginger
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp garam masala (def. worth making your own from scratch)
1/2 tsp cayenne
3 lbs chicken thighs, bone-in
1 cup sour cream, stirred
2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Have all the above set up, ready to go (your mise-en-place). If you’re a quick knife, it may not be necessary, but at least get your spices measured out in a cup (same cup, they all go in at the same time). If you have a large deep-bottomed pan, use it–the surface area will help cook your chicken faster. If not, a small pot will also work.

First you’ll prepare the masala:

  • Heat the oil on medium.
  • Add the onions and the cinnamon stick and sauté until the onions turn golden (5-8 minutes).
  • Add garlic and cook for another 4 minutes.
  • Add ginger, tomatoes and your spice mix (salt, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala and cayenne). Cook for 5 minutes or until the oil separates.

Now in with the chicken:

  • Skin the chicken thighs and rinse them (you can do this while the masala cooks).
  • Add chicken to the masala, turning and coating the pieces well.
  • Cook for 10 minutes, until the chicken starts to brown.
  • Stir in the sour cream and water and increase the heat to medium-high.
  • Wait for a boil, reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked, being sure to stir the pot a few times.

And now the hard part. When your chicken is cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Fish out the cinnamon and let your food cool for 30 minutes or more. Yes, you’re hungry, but be patient. While we waited, Hanne made some jasmine rice to go with the dish.

Next, the annoying part. You need to remove the chicken from the pot and its meat from its bones before adding the meat back into the masala. I nearly skipped this step, but I stuck with the recipe. It’s either going to get messy now or messy while eating. Your call.

Before serving, heat it all up again on medium heat until it starts to simmer. Cut the heat, stir in cilantro, serve, pack leftovers for lunch, tease your coworkers.

3 Ingredient Pasta Sauce - www.supperinstereo.comThis post is a gift for my brothers and sister, who just moved into a new house. Today is their housewarming party, and I’m all the way across the country. Since I can’t attend, guys, I’m offering you this housewarming gift. Without Mom in your kitchen, I figure you might be eating more chips and soda, starburst candies, and um… raw potatoes (do you still eat raw potatoes?) than before, at least for a little while.

Here’s a recipe that will give you a break from the junk food. Carlo and I make this all the time and we still can’t believe so few ingredients can taste so good. The secret is in the long simmer, where the tomatoes slowly absorb the butter and the flavour of the onions, cooking down into a thick and rich sauce that’s just perfect on pasta with a generous sprinkling of parmesan on top. It’s amazing that just three things can make a sauce that tastes so good and feels so warm and filling. But there you are.

This simplicity is a good thing to remember, I think. You’re all taking care of yourselves now, and that’s a lot. I still sometimes have these panics where I think “my goodness, for the rest of my life I’m going to have to do this myself.” And there’s no way to take a break from life, it’s just going to keep coming at you. That’s why it’s nice to know that it doesn’t always have to be hard to take care of yourself. Pop this in a pot, boil some pasta, and in 45 minutes, sit down together and eat. You can do it! Happy housewarming! I guess maybe I’m going to have to stop calling you “the kids.”

I’m sorry about the not-so-beautiful photo. Trust me, even though it’s not beautiful, it’s delicious.

We got this recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. We’ve adapted it so that its proportions match a large can of tomatoes (796 mL), but that’s about it. You can reduce the amount of butter in the sauce, which I always do. However, it always tastes best when Carlo makes it (he’s not careful with the butter).

TOMATO SAUCE WITH ONION AND BUTTER

1 can plum tomatoes (28 oz/796 mL, either diced or whole)
1/3 cup butter (you can be a little more generous or a little more sparing with this)
2 medium onions, peeled and cut in half
salt
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. pasta (or whatever amount you happen to throw in the pot)
Parmesan cheese for serving

Put the tomatoes, the butter, the onions, and a generous pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Stir it occasionally, and mash the tomatoes up with your spoon. Cook the sauce for about 45 minutes (it should be at a light simmer this whole time) or until you start to see the butter and tomatoes separating from each other. When it’s done, taste it and add more salt if you need to. Take the pan off the heat and remove the onions. Serve it over pasta, with parmesan cheese on top.

This is a Rick Bayless recipe from our dog eared copy of Mexican Everyday. The page in question is being held together by green painter’s tape, which is a good indication of how often Hanne and I have used the Chipotle Shrimp recipe. This dish comes together quick, making it a great weeknight meal. Bayless recommends fire-roasted tomatoes. Take his advice if you can track them down. Or better yet, roast your own!

Using two chipotles in this recipe makes for a strong steady burn. Three and you’ll be smacking your lips happily (I’m a sucker/masochist for spice) or manically searching for that ill-advised glass of water (doesn’t work. Soothe your sad gummy tongue on a gob of yogurt, wimp). Don’t even think about using one chipotle.

This dish is also a great reheater. Double up the recipe and you have leftovers for lunch. It’s not a fishy dish, so it won’t stink bomb your work’s microwave. Not that you should really care.

Serves 2
1 cup of rice, 2 cups of water
1 drained 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
2 canned chipotle chiles (or 3, tough guy)
1 tablespoon chipotle sauce (from the can)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Approx. 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Approx. 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 pound (or so) of shrimp, peeled and deveined (leave the tails on to make this a quick recipe)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro for garnish

Step 1) Get your rice steaming. Your sauce will be ready by the time it’s done.
2) Blend tomatoes, chipotle chiles and sauce until smooth.
3) Heat oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook until golden.
4) Pour in tomato mixture. Be sure the pan isn’t too hot or your white shirt is screwed. Cook for 5 minutes.
5) Add broth, making sure to keep the sauce saucey, not soupy. Salt it.
6) Add the shrimp. When they pink and curl they’re done (about 4 minutes). If your sauce is too thick, add a bit more broth or water, if you used up the broth in step 4. If it gets soupy on you (not sure how, but this happened to me. The frozen shrimp probably released moisture), then remove the shrimp and cook the sauce down.
7) Serve garnished generously with cilantro. I recommend serving this dish on a bed of long grain white rice.

bayless-mexican-everyday.jpg

Rick Bayless, the lovable Yogi, is not Mexican. But he’s one of America’s top Mexican chefs and cookbook writers. We visited his restaurant in Chicago a couple years ago. It was really good, but honestly? We’ve gotten better results at home using his recipes. This is either a testament to Bayless as a great cookbook writer or having gone soft like a week old plantain on his kitchen staff. Probably an effective chef should let Yoga be.

Seriously though, if you love Mexican food and need quick recipes for weeknight meals, get this book. Equally seriously, skip the page picturing Bayless on his head, doing Yoga. And uh, don’t eat refried beans before your Yoga class.

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