Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fresh Tomato Sauce

My sister Melody was visiting this past weekend and one thing she LOVES to do whenever she can get over to the mainland is to hit up Bosa which is a fabulous Italian grocery store and deli. So Bosa we did go and boy did we do some damage! We loaded up on olive oil, coffee, tea, chocolates, tuna in olive oil, goats cheese, baguette, truffle oil, marinated artichokes, sundried tomatoes and fresh ravioli stuffed with yummy squash and walnuts. All very practical things we kept telling ourselves.

That night, she offered to cook the fresh pasta we had purchased in a quick tomato sauce recipe that she learned from a Bob Blumer workshop. And the sauce was so mind blowing she agreed to let me post the recipe. Thanks Mel!

The thing that makes this tomato sauce so great is that it requires very few ingredients, it only takes a few minutes to make and the tomatoes are actually grated into the sauce, which gives it a fantastically fresh taste. This sauce is a keeper.

Tomato Sauce (2 servings with fresh pasta)
adapted from Bob Blumer's recipe

1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 tomatoes
salt and pepper

fresh basil, finely chopped

Pan fry the olive oil and shallots until soft, and then add the garlic and chili flakes. Let the garlic cook for a minute or two until lightly browned and then grate 2-3 tomatoes into the pan. Cook until heated through. When doing this you will find you are holding mostly tomato skin at the end, discard this excess tomato skin. Add fresh basil if you wish, Season with salt and pepper to taste and pour onto your favorite pasta. Garnish with parmesan cheese.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Yummy Carrot Spread; not just for babies

When I looked in the fridge today, I realized that we had an abundance of carrots, two big bags in fact. What to do? Should I make more carrot ginger juice? another carrot slaw perhaps? do I dare attempt the mouth-watering carrot cilantro soup recipe seen here? After much debate, I decided the easiest choice would be to steam them into baby food for my almost 10 month old baby. But that just seemed boring, plus it's time to be introducing more flavours and thicker textures to my little guy now, things like garlic and herbs.

So I ended up making carrot spread which comes from a cool little book named Sprout Right given to me by my good friend Ashley, Thanks Ashley! And before I alienate anyone who doesn't have a child, the recipes from this book are great for adults also! In fact, every recipe from this book has been a total winner. It includes everything from healthy ways to make chicken fingers to super tasty vegetarian shepard's pie.

I smeared this dip, still warm from the steamer on crackers topped with cheddar cheese for a tasty little snack for myself. I also topped it on baby crackers for my little guy who gobbled them up unfazed by the new flavours of *tahini and basil. I also suspect this would make a great sandwich spread or dip for raw veggies or chips.

*If you have a family history or concern of nut or seed allergies you may want talk to a nutritionist or family physician before introducing nuts or seeds to you baby.

Carrot Spread
from Sprout Right by Lianne Phillipson-Web

8 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tahini or sunflower seed butter
1 tbsp fresh basil or cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or flax oil
1 tsp lemon juice

1. Steam carrots until tender and cool slightly
2. Puree all ingredients in food processor or blender. Consume within 3 days.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mujadara - the Poor Man's Meal

I first had mujadara also known as mujaddara or mejadra several years ago at one of my very favourite lebanese restaurant here in Vancouver Nuba. Sweet caramelized onions with soft billowy lentils and brown rice combine with a hint of cumin to make a perfect meal in my opinion. Turns out, Mujadara is a staple meal in middle eastern cooking and it's easy to see why.

I love discovering new dishes especially ones that are easy to make at home and so that very night I frantically googled recipes for this dish. There are countless mujadara recipes to be found online, and they are all generally the same with only slight variations here and there. We've been making it for awhile and I think we've finally got it perfected. Adding cumin really takes it to the next level as well as garnishing with feta cheese if you have it.

This is not a very labour intensive meal to make, once you've chopped up all the onions and wiped your tears away but it does take some time, at least 1 hour. So this is not an ideal meal for slapping together at the last minute since you'll end up getting frustrated when the lentils are still hard and the rice takes forever to cook, believe me I've been there on a weeknight when we were all hungry and cranky. So if you have time for a slow-cooked meal, this is it. And it's well worth the wait.

As a side note, I also gave this meal (without the caramelized onions) to my 9 and a half month old baby who seemed to enjoy it and digested it well. Food for everyone.

Mujadara (serves 6)

1 cup brown rice
2 cups dry brown or green lentils (I used french lentils)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 garlic clove (optional)
3-4 onions, thinly sliced
6-7 cups chicken or vegetable stock (water can also be used instead)
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

garnish options
avocado, sliced or cubed
feta cheese
plain yogurt

Finely slice 2-4 onions and fry with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Cook on low, stirring occasionally until brown and caramelized, do not worry if there are burnt crusty bits because it will only add to the flavour. Realistically this step takes about 1 hour. This is the most time consuming part of this dish but cannot be skipped since the onions really make this meal.

Fry 1/2 of another onion in the oil until lightly browned and then add garlic, cumin, 3 cups of stock and the dry lentils. It is not necessary to presoak the lentils, just rinse in water to remove any dust.  Cook for about 20 min on a low temperature and cover, lentils should be almost cooked, it is okay if they are not fully cooked yet. Stir now and again so lentils don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Add more stock if necessary if more liquid is needed.

Next add the rice and the remaining stock, reduce to low and cover. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 20 min or until rice is fully cooked. If rice is not fully cooked and there is no liquid left then add more stock if needed.

Serve with caramelized onions on top. Sprinkle with feta cheese, avocado and plain yogurt if you have it. Makes great leftovers.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Energy Juice

I've been feeling a little energy low this past week or two and I've decided to try to do something about it. Starting with eating healthier, reducing my caffeine intake, taking vitamins more regularly and getting more sleep. Of course that last intention may be wishful thinking but hey, a girl can dream right?

Last night was a particularly rough night in this household since my little guy woke up every 2 hours screaming in pain from his big top tooth cutting through his swollen gums. Ouch! Nothing seemed to soothe him except of course when my husband sang to him but unfortunately Kelly couldn't stay up all night singing. So today the bags under my eyes are looking even darker than usual.

In an attempt to give myself a shot of energy I made some lovely carrot, ginger, beet and apple juice. Unfortunately a juicer is required for this and so if you are lucky enough to own one I highly recommend pulling it out if you are in an energy slump. It's well worth the annoying clean up that invariably comes with juicing.

Here is what I put into mine.

Energy Juice (serves 1)

1 apple
2 carrots
about 1 inch of raw ginger
1 slice of beet

Here is a picture of me and my little guy taken this past weekend at Centennial Beach in Boundary Bay. One of the last of him with no upper tooth poking out. And yes, I like hats!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hello Summer! Grilled Shrimp Paella

This past weekend I stopped by a garage sale for the historic Cannery Restaurant which recently closed down. This was a classic fine-dining seafood restaurant situated in Port Vancouver and so it is sad news that they were forced to close their doors after serving Vancouverites since 1971.

At the sale I managed to pick up a massive, beautiful old beat-up stainless-steel pan (pictured above) for a measly two dollars! I also bought a mini-version of the same pan for the same price. So even though I regret to say I never ate at this historic restaurant, I can now continue its legacy by cooking for my own family with this beautiful old pan. Hopefully the wisdom of past chefs who used it to prepare countless fabulous meals will now be passed into my home.

My husband Kelly used the pan last night to made an awesome paella. It was a perfect meal for a warm summer evening on the patio and so I thought I'd share it, with his permission of course. He followed a recipe but really one is not needed, just follow the simple instructions and ingredients suggested here.

Nonetheless here is the recipe he followed. The original recipe called for lobster which seemed a bit extravagant and labour intensive for a weeknight and so we substituted in shrimp. Any seafood of your choosing would make a great addition. 

Paella (serves 6)
adapted from bon appetit July 2011

1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 lb chorizo sausage sliced into 12/" rounds
2 leeks, finely chopped (white and light green parts only)
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
21/2 cups short-grain rice
1/4 tsp saffron threads
7 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsely
3 halved lemons
Salt to taste

Preheat BBQ. Cook olive oil until hot and then add leeks and chorizo and cook until soft (3-4 minutes). Add rice, paprika, saffron and stock. Let cook, undisturbed until rice begins to absorb liquid, about 10 minutes. Turn pan every few minutes to cook evenly. Next, add the shrimp and evenly distribute in the pan and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Add thawed peas. Once fully cooked, remove from grill and let rest for 5 minutes to cool. Garnish with parsely and lemon juice.