Tuesday, September 20, 2011

salmon with thai-inspired salsa

fresh and flavourful
Salmon is a great vehicle for flavour, you can make it quite plain but top it with a delicious sauce and you're set! Tonight it was topped with a fresh mango salsa - served alongside steamed broccoli - and it was pretty great.

what you need:
*serves two
  • fillet of salmon for 2 (about 16 ounces)
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp ponzu
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • canola oil
thai salsa:
  • 1 mango
  • 1 sweet red pepper
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1-2 green thai chilies
  • 1/2 lime - zest and juice
  • 1 tsp thai fish sauce
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp ponzu
  • small pinch of salt
what to do:
  1. Marinate salmon in soy, ponzu, garlic, and black pepper.  Add about 1 tsp canola oil.  Let it rest for about 10 minutes, flipping salmon once at 5 minutes.
  2. Prep salsa ingredients - dice mango and red pepper into about the same size.  Finely chop garlic clove.  Thinly slice green onion, chilies, and cilantro.  Mix all salsa ingredients together and then set aside in the fridge.
  3. In a non-stick pan, put 2 tbsp of canola oil on medium heat.  Once the oil is heated, about 1-2 minutes, place salmon carefully in pan - you should hear it sizzle.  Cook for about 2 minutes, then flip salmon carefully and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium - low and cover pan with lid.  Cook for about 2-3 more minutes, depending on how thick your salmon is and how you like your salmon cooked.  (If you like it medium-rare, the thickest part of the salmon should feel a little bouncy when you lightly poke it with a cooking spoon.  If you like it medium-well, it should feel firmer)
  4. Remove salmon from heat and top with heaping spoons of the salsa right before serving.  Enjoy!

sweet and sour pork

front and centre - a tasty addition to an already asian meal
So a few of my undergrad friends came to visit this weekend and they requested a few dishes from this blog.  In the picture you can see also ginger soy beef , soy glazed jie lan (asian broccoli), dragon noodles, and wild rice.  I thought I'd try something I've never made before - sweet and sour pork.  In restaurants the pork is usually battered, deep fried and very crispy - obviously delicious - but I don't own a deep fryer!  It is also healthier to cook the pork in a non-stick pan anyway:)

what you need:
*serves 6

  • 6 centre loin pork chops
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1/3 cup corn starch
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • canola oil
sweet and sour sauce:
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly smashed
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce 
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • pinch of salt & black pepper
  • 1 tbsp corn starch

what to do:

  1. Prep pork by cutting into bite size cubes (about 1") and place in a large bowl.  Toss until evenly coated with soy (add another tbsp if it doesn't look like enough), and then toss to coat with 1/3 cup corn starch.  Set aside in fridge or on counter top if you are going to cook it soon (meat cooks better if it's warmed up to room temp - cooking it straight from the cold fridge can make it tough).
  2. Cut bell peppers and red onion in about the same size cubes as your pork.  Set aside in a bowl.
  3. Mix all sweet and sour ingredients except for corn starch.  Taste, and adjust if required.  (You may find that you want it more sour....so add vinegar.  Or if you want more tang, add a little bit more ketchup and Worcestershire).
  4. Heat a large non-stick pan on medium with 2 tbsp canola oil.  Brown the pork in batches, because if you overcrowd the pan they won't get browned and will just steam/cook.  Once browned and cooked (about 2 minutes per side), remove and place on a rack or paper towel to drain excess oil.  
  5. Add 1 tbsp canola oil to the same pan and on medium heat, sautee onions and peppers, about 2 minutes.  Once slightly softened, add the sweet and sour sauce mixture.  Turn heat to medium - low and allow it to simmer, then add the browned pork cubes.  
  6. In a small bowl, mix 1 tbsp corn starch with about 3 tbsp water.  Add it to the simmering mixture while you stir, to avoid lumps.  Stir for about 2 more minutes, until sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and serve alongside rice.  Enjoy!

dinner time
happy friends eating

Friday, September 16, 2011

easy peasy pretzels

Friends dropping by last minute?  These chocolate covered pretzels are the perfect combination of sweet and salty - and they take no time to make.  Serve them with beer, tea, coffee, wine, whatever!

what you need:

  • pretzels, store bought
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp butter
what to do:

  1. Get a double boiler going - heat proof bowl over a pot with a shallow amount of boiling water.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate chips in the bowl - be careful not to let any water in!
  3. Line a plate or baking sheet with parchment/wax paper.  
  4. Stir chocolate mixture and when it is smooth, remove from heat.  Dip one side of the pretzel and lay it gently on the paper.  Once you have no more room, place the pretzels in the fridge.  The chocolate should set within 15 minutes or so.  It will be easy to remove because of the wax paper.  Pile high on a plate and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

rustic peach cobbler

serve alone or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream
Ontario peaches are in season and plentiful right now - these ones were slightly firm and perfect for baking. This cobbler is easy and not too sweet - and I added some graham cracker crumbs to the crumble for some added texture and sweetness.  It's a perfect ending to an end of summer dinner.

what you need:
*serves 6-8

  • 6-8 peaches, still firm and not mushy
  • 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup rolled oats 
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold
  • salt
what to do:

  1. Wash peaches and cut each peach into six wedges.  (Easiest to cut all around pit and twist into two halves, then cut into 3 wedges per half - turn the half with the pit so that the pit is down on the cutting board and cut until you hit the pit - the pit will then come out easily).  Place all the peach pieces into a large bowl.
  2. Add the cornstarch, half of the brown sugar (1/4 cup), 2 tsp cinnamon, a small pinch of salt and scraped vanilla bean seeds and the remaining pods into peach bowl.  Toss to coat all peaches.  Set aside.                                                    
  3. peaches tossed with brown sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch & vanilla
  4. In a separate smaller bowl, combine flour, oats, graham cracker crumbs, remaining brown sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, and a small pinch of salt.                                 
  5. Cut butter into small cubes.  Using your fingers, work butter roughly into the flour mixture, incorporating until the crumble becomes lumpy with small pea sized butter pieces throughout.  
  6. Tumble peaches into a baking dish and then sprinkle crumble evenly on top - doesn't have to be perfect.  This can be kept in the fridge until you are ready to bake it off, for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Check at around 20 min to make sure the peaches are fork tender and the crumble isn't burning.  Also, at the this point if there are parts of the crumble that look dry or like raw flour, put extra small pads of butter to these areas.  
  7. Turn the oven to broil and watch closely - about 2 minutes - and remove when topping is browned and crisp.  Let it rest for about 10 minutes, then serve warm and enjoy!  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

the TLT

a surprisingly satisfying meal

OK so the other night Ryan and I got home a little late after playing tennis after work. We were hungry and wanted to make something fast, but still healthy and filling.  We had the ingredients for BLTs - and I thought, why not add some asian flare?  Tofu added a great source of protein to the sandwich, and wasabi-arugula (a new item I found at the grocery store - really flavourful with peppery-ness of arugula and a slight wasabi kick) made this BLT unique and satisfying.

what you need:

  • multigrain bread (usually we buy Rudoloph's Bavaria multigrain, available in most grocery stores)
  • 2 handfuls wasabi arugula (or any other greens, such as spinach, spring mix, etc)
  • 1 square of firm tofu
  • 1 tomato
  • 4 slices of bacon, preferable hickory or applewood smoked
  • mayonnaise
  • canola oil
  • salt and pepper
  • red chili flakes *optional
what to do:

  1. Cook bacon until crispy in a non-stick pan.  While the bacon is cooking, cut tofu and tomato into about 1 cm thick slices.  Wash and pat dry wasabi arugula.
  2. Remove bacon once cooked and allow to drain on a paper towel.  Pour most of the bacon fat into a bowl to dispose of later, but keep about 1 tbsp in the pan.
  3. Add about 1 tsp or so of canola oil to pan.  Fry the tofu in the pan on medium, seasoning lightly with salt, pepper and red chili.  Brown both sides of tofu then remove.
  4. Toast the bread - spread lightly with mayonnaise and pile one slice high with tofu, bacon, tomato, and wasabi-arugula.  Top with remaining slice and cut in half.  Enjoy!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"puttanesca" inspired pasta

an easy and quick dinner on a busy weeknight!
Puttanesca is traditionally an Italian sauce made up of anchovies, garlic, capers, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and is served with spaghetti.  The meaning of puttanesca is a little humorous - meaning "whore" - so the original recipe "spaghetti alla puttanseca" means whore's pasta - as the ingredients are easy to get your hands on (probably right in your pantry/fridge).  Or, other sources state that the intense aromas of the sauce mimic the magnetic forces these women have to reel in the men.  Anyway, whatever the story is, this is my version of this dish.  I was literally down to very few items in my fridge and was craving pasta - and having a can of tuna as protein instead of anchovies and olives as my salty component instead of capers - lemon for some freshness - and adding broccoli to cram in some green nutrition.  It turned out quite delicious!

what you need:
*serves 2, with leftovers:)

  • 1 can flaked tuna
  • 1 small broccoli stalk
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives
  • 1 handful basil leaves
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 handful spaghetti pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper
what to do:

  1. Get a large pot of water going on the stove to bring to a boil.  
  2. Cut broccoli into small bite size pieces.  Roughly chop garlic, tomatoes and basil.  Zest 1/2 the lemon.
  3. In a pan on medium heat, add olive oil.  Add tomatoes, lemon zest and garlic, be careful not to let the garlic burn.  While the tomatoes are breaking down on the heat, cook broccoli in boiling water for about 2 minutes, until bright green.  Remove broccoli, reserving the hot water.
  4. Cook the pasta in the same water as the broccoli, until al dante.  
  5. While pasta is cooking, add the broccoli, red pepper flakes, olives, and tuna.  If the pan appears too dry, add a little bit of pasta water (about 1/4 cup at a time).  Mix and season with salt (not too much, as the olives are salty) and pepper.
  6. Once the pasta is done, transfer to pan and toss gently with tuna, broccoli, olives, etc.  Reserve some pasta water to add, in case the sauce is too dry.
  7. Turn off the heat.  Add the basil then transfer to serving dish.  Grate Parmesan cheese on top to finish.  Serve with a slice of lemon to squeeze over pasta right before eating.  Enjoy!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

garlicky seared zucchini

a tasty quick side dish
Zucchinis are bountiful this time of year - why not use them for a side dish with your meals? This one is easy, quick and brings out the sweetness of the zucs.

what you need:
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • canola oil
  • salt & pepper
what to do:
  1. Smash cloves of garlic and chop roughly.  Slice zucchini on an angle, about 1/3" thick.
  2. In a non-stick pan, heat up about 1 tbsp of oil on medium heat.
  3. Add garlic.  Once you smell the aromas of garlic, place zucchini into the pan to sear.  Do not over crowd pan or they won't brown.
  4. In about 1-2 minutes, flip zucchini to sear the other side.  Sprinkle lightly with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Serve and enjoy!

"mi-fen" shiitake rice noodles

tangy worcestershire is the key to this dish
This dish is one of our family favourites.  Whenever my mom hosts dinner or attends a potluck party, it's a safe bet that she will be making this dish.  Everyone fights for leftovers, if there are any!  I made it yesterday for the first time for my cousin and aunt in-laws; they loved it so much they had seconds and thirds.  It can be served hot, at room temperature, and even cold, making it an easy meal to pack on a picnic, for lunch, or to bring to a potluck.  It's also great because you only need one pan:) easy clean up. It can be easily made vegetarian by omitting the meat.

what you need:
*serves about 6

  • 1 12 oz package rice noodles ("rice sticks" made in Taiwan best - found in asian food markets)
  • 1 large red or yellow onion
  • 1 large crown of broccoli
  • 2 carrots
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/3 lb or so of ground pork
  • worcestershire sauce
  • soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • canola oil
  • fresh cilantro, small bunch
  • 2 green onions
  • white pepper
  • 2 dried red chilies *optional*
  • 1 cup chicken stock or water
what to do:
  1. Soak rice noodles in cold water for 15 minutes, until softened.  Use scissors to roughly cut the noodles (difficult to serve if noodles are too long).
  2. Re-hydrate shiitake mushrooms by immersing them into a small bowl of hot boiled water.
  3. In a medium pot, bring water to a boil.  
  4. Prepare your vegetables - cut onion into thin long slices, julienne carrots, and cut broccoli into small, bite size pieces.  Roughly chop cilantro and green onions, set aside.  
  5. Blanch broccoli and carrots in boiling water for about 2 minutes, until broccoli is bright green.  Remove from hot water immediately and rinse quickly with cold water.  Set aside.
  6. Once shiitake mushrooms are softened, remove from water and slice thinly.
  7. In a large non-stick pan, heat 2 tbsp oil on medium heat.  Add onions and shiitake mushrooms, allow to caramelize slowly, then add 1-2 tsp or so of white pepper, 1 tsp sugar and the red chilies (crushed gently for more spice, or leave whole for milder taste).                                                                                      Push the mushrooms and onions to one side of the pan where there is less heat once they are golden brown, and add the ground pork, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon.  Add about 8 dashes of worcestershire sauce and 1 tbsp soy sauce, then stir, allowing the meat to brown slightly.  Once browned mix meat and onions/shiitake together.
  8. Add the broccoli and carrots to the pan.  Drain the noodles and add to the pan.  
  9. Add a few more dashes of worcestershire and soy sauce.  Mix gently and add chicken stock or water.  Continue to mix while noodles cook and soak up the liquid, for about 10 minutes.  If it appears too dry and the noodles are not cooked yet, add a little bit more stock or water.  The noodles will look slightly more translucent than white when cooked.  Taste the noodles - and add soy sauce or more worcestershire sauce as required.  
  10. Turn off heat - mix in green onions and cilantro, and garnish with both on top before serving.  Enjoy!