Monday, March 21, 2011

ravioli with black bean & acorn squash

you won't miss the meat with this veggie dish
Tonight I wanted to make something entirely vegetarian (for you sones!) and as I walked around the grocery store I thought acorn squash looked fun.  Black beans were the protein of choice because I thought its texture would marry nicely with the squash. The dried chillies make the dish because it balances the sweetest of the squash - you have to try this!
what you need:
*serves 4*
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 can of black beans (540 ml)
  • 5 handfuls of spinach
  • 1 head of garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh cheese & spinach ravioli (I used Ziggy's)
  • 2 dried red chillies or 2 pinches red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese 
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut up acorn squash into about 1" wedges - take the seeds out and save them for snacking later.  
  3. Trim the top off the garlic and drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil, add a small pinch of salt and pepper.  Wrap completely with aluminum foil.
  4. Toss the acorn squash with 2 tbsp olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Place the squash and garlic on cookie sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, flipping them halfway.
  5. Remove from oven and allow squash and garlic too cool before handling.  Remove skin from squash.  Drain and rinse the can of black beans.
  6. In a large pot, bring cold water to a boil to cook the ravioli (add about 2 tbsp salt to the water).
  7. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan on medium heat, add 1-2 tbsp olive oil and the red chillies.  Allow the chillies to blacken and crush them a little bit.  
  8. Before you cook the pasta, cook the spinach in the boiling water for 5-10 seconds then remove immediately with tongs or a spider and set aside.  Cook the ravioli for about 5-7 min, drain and save the pasta water.  
  9. Add the black beans to the pan and toss gently.  Add the squash and softly mash with the back of a fork.  Add the roasted garlic (hold it upside down and squeeze until flesh comes out).  Turn the heat to low and add 1 cup of pasta water, stirring gently until the beans and squash absorb it.  Depending on how dry the squash is, you many need to add more pasta water.  Add the spinach.
  10. In a large bowl, mix ravioli with the squash and black bean sauce.  Serve hot with freshly ground pepper and Parmesan cheese shavings.  Enjoy!  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

thai inspired chicken soup

Tonight I used the chicken middle bone (or back bone) from the organic whole chicken (see "a whole chicken, a whole week") to make a Thai inspired chicken noodle soup. The aroma was fresh and inviting, and it made a light & fulfilling dinner for two.  If you don't have chicken bones to make stock, use store bought chicken or vegetable stock.  

what you need:
  • chicken bones for stock
  • 10 cups cold water
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 small bunch Thai basil
  • 2 small Thai chillies
  • 1 lime
  • 1 stalk of lemon grass
  • 1 small onion 
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 3-4 slices fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 dashes fish sauce
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 handful green beans
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro
  • 2 portions of soft tofu
  • 2 portions of brown rice vermicelli
what to do:
  1. Trim excess fat off the chicken bones.  Add it to a pot with 4-5 cups cold water and bring to a boil, then turn it to medium and let it simmer with the lid on for 15 min.
  2. Roughly chop the onion, celery, chillies and lemon grass.  Smash the garlic cloves.  Rip the kaffir lime and basil leaves/stems a little to release its flavour. Add all of these to simmering stock.  In about 15 minutes, remove the chicken bones.  (When the chicken bones are cool enough to handle, remove any meat and set aside, then return bones to soup)
  3. Turn the burner to medium low and simmer for another 15-20 minutes.  Add a few dashes of fish sauce and a pinch of salt.  Taste the broth - add salt if required.
  4. Chop the green beans and green onions lengthwise on a sharp angle.  Roughly chop the cilantro and grate the carrot.  Cut tofu into 1" pieces.  Set aside.
  5. In another pot, bring 5 cups of cold water to boil.  Put the vermicelli into the water and then turn off heat.  Soak for about 2 min, or until noodles are cooked (be careful not to overcook because they will become soggy and fall apart), drain and put noodles into the bottom of two bowls.
  6. Turn off the heat for the stock and sieve out the aromatics (bones, onions, celery, etc.), return stock to the pot and bring to a gentle boil.  Add the tofu and green beans, cook for about 2 minutes then turn off the heat.
  7. Top the noodles with carrots, cilantro, green onion and chicken (removed early from the bone).  Ladle broth, tofu and green beans into bowl until noodles are well covered.  Serve with a slice of lime, chopsticks and a spoon.  Enjoy!
toppings ready for soup
removing aromatics once they have flavoured the stock

Sunday, March 6, 2011

broccoli salad

a hearty salad
I never thought much of raw broccoli until one summer my friend Sammi brought a broccoli salad to a girls' dinner night at my place.  It was such a delicious surprise! Here's my version of it - hope you like it!
what you need:
  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • 1 small bunch of red seedless grapes
  • 1/2 a small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped roughly
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta or blue cheese 
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon's zest and juice
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
what to do:
  1. Wash the broccoli and trim off the tough ends.  Cut florets into bite size pieces.  Trim off the tough fibrous outside of the stalks, then slice thinly (the inside of the stalk is actually quite tender and yummy).  Place broccoli into a large salad bowl.
  2. Cut the grapes in half and add to the bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix lemon zest, juice, mayo, vinegar, honey, and onion.  Pour it on top of broccoli and toss the salad.  Let it sit in a cool place for about 30 minutes.
  4. Add the crumbled cheese and almonds.  Serve and enjoy!

a whole chicken, a whole week

I have always wanted to eat more organic, local, free range and all that good environmental stuff.  It's definitely tough because of the prices.  Recently Ryan and I discovered that our local Loblaws carries Peterborough's Yorkshire Valley Farm organic free range chickens.  It is slightly more expensive, especially if you buy the boneless skinless packages.  But you can get a whole chicken, do the work at home and save some money.  So that's what we decided to do this weekend - get a whole organic free range chicken and use it wisely and maximally to provide multiple meals this week.  I divided the chicken into 4 parts - breast, wings, thighs, and middle bone.  Tonight I used the chicken thighs on the menu - linguine with roasted vegetable puree & roasted chicken.  I put the rest in the freezer for use later.

linguine with roasted chicken and vegetable puree
what you need:
*serves 2
  • 2 chicken thighs, skin on
  • 1 small can whole tomatoes or 2-3 fresh tomatoes quartered
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 3-5 cloves garlic
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • 1-2 pinches dried red chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 handful of linguine 
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
what to do:
  1. Rinse the chicken legs and then pat dry with paper towel.  Season with salt and pepper and a little bit of olive oil.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Chop onion, red pepper and celery roughly, about 1" thick.  Cut the carrot slightly smaller.  In a shallow baking dish, mix vegetables with garlic cloves, chili flakes, olive oil, and a little bit of salt and pepper.  Place tomatoes evenly on top of vegetables (if you're using canned, add the juice too)
  3. Place chicken thighs on top of vegetables.  Put it onto the middle rack in the oven and bake for about 1.5 hours, or until carrots are fork tender and chicken is crisp on top.
  4. Remove chicken thighs from vegetables - (you may choose to remove the skin but it is a nice treat once in awhile) 
  5. Put vegetables into a food processor or use an immersion blender to puree - this will be your sauce for the pasta.  Be really careful as it will be very hot.
  6. Cook linguine in salted boiling water for about 9 minutes (depending on the brand) - drain and place into a large serving bowl.  
  7. Add pureed vegetables to the linguine and toss to coat, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.
  8. Serve chicken thighs on top of pasta - enjoy!
dividing up the chicken...
I realize this task isn't the most fun, but for about 20 minutes of work you can save a lot of money and you really take the time to appreciate the chicken and all the dishes you can create with the different parts.
this whole thing seems daunting, but if you follow the edges along
the bone you will find it's not too hard, and it doesn't have to be perfect
chicken thighs on top of vegetables, ready for the oven
chicken breasts, middle bone, and wings, ready for later