Tuesday, July 31

Chipotle Egg Salad

I made another version of no-kneed bread a few weeks ago and posted the details in the comments on the original post.

And what better way to enjoy the freshness of dense, seedy bread than with a creamy egg salad (hmm, maybe with good-quality butter, but that's another story). While the bread was still warm, I boiled some eggs, creamed the yolks with mayo, salt, black pepper and pureed chipotle and mixed in the chopped whites. My Dad always makes egg salad this way (well, without the chipotle), smoothing the yolks first - I think it makes for a creamier salad.

What a great breakfast - thick slices of fresh bread with spicy eggs.

Monday, July 30

Must adhere to chronological postings

I have a problem. I've made lots of great food lately but am behind in sharing with you, my lovely audience. I feel as though I have to post catch-up meals before I allow myself to describe the recent meals. Weird, huh? That just how I'm wired I guess, and anything out of chronological order will mess with my mind.

So, here's some szarlotka (traditionally, Polish apple pastry) I made a while ago. The pastry didn't turn out as well as when my talented Mom makes it, but it satisfied our sweet and butter craving. I won't share the recipe, because I think it's more about technique than ingredients and I still need tutoring on that from Mom.

Szarlotka is a cake (or is it pie, or squares...can you tell I'm not the baker in the family?) made with a flaky, buttery crust and filled with fruit. When I was growing up, my Mom or Grandma would often make it with apples or strawberries. I decided on strawberry rhubarb since we had recently - ah, about 1 month ago - picked the berries ourselves (that's me, btw).

The rhubarb was fresh from a friend's garden (we are lucky to have such friends - ones that do all the work and let us reep the benefits...what can we say: we're lazy moochers!).

I melted down the fruit a little by cooking and cooling equal parts of strawberry and rhubarb with a little sugar. I also strained out excess juice and made popsicles! Unfortunately the filling (and popsicles) turned out quite tart.

Although, in my mind, that wasn't such a bad thing, considering the crust contained a whole block (not stick) of butter. That's right, 454 grams. So the buttery crust more than made up for the lack of sugar in the filling and the two matched well. As per my family's tradition, I added some sweetness by dusting with icing sugar.

Smacznego! (uh, that's what we say in Polish, in lieu of "Bon
Appétit")

Thursday, July 19

Easiest bread in the world

I'm a little ashamed to say that, being new to to the food-blog-o-sphere, I've only recently found out about no-kneed bread. No-kneed bread??! That's right. Now you can have all the benefits of fresh homemade bread without straining your precious forearms! This is my kind of recipe.

Posted by the charming Mark Bittman of the New York Times (Nov, 2006), this is a recipe modified from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery. One copy of the original recipe (at least original to my knowledge) with more elaborate instructions can be found here or you can google 'no-kneed bread' and come up with a thousand hits.

No-kneed bread
(including my adaptations of Mark's adapations of Jim's recipe)

  • 3 cups bread flour (I used 1 cup each of spelt, whole wheat and white)
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (I used 1 tbsp and it was way too much!)
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1. Mix flour, yeast and salt together in a large-ish bowl.

2. Add water and stir with fork or knife until mixed (takes about 1 min) and looks like sticky, lumpy goop.

3. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm corner of your kitchen to rise for 18 hours (I cut this short and let it rest only for 15 hrs).

Mine looked like this after step 3:

4. Dump out onto a floured surface and fold over a few times, shaping into a rough ball. Let rest for two hours under a floured tea towel (next time, I'll just let it rest in an oiled bowl since it stuck to the towel).

Mine looked like this while resting:

5. Preheat oven along with covered cast iron pot to 450F. Note, I don't have such a pot, so I used a pizza stone. Next time, I'll use either a covered casserole dish or just a regular uncovered loaf pan.

6. Bake for 30 min if uncovered. If covered, take off lid after 30 min and baked for another 15 min until crust is golden and bread sounds hollow when knocked.

Here's my final result. Crust has good crunch without being too hard and the inside has texture somewhere between whole wheat and rye. So far we've had it with salad for lunch, as an oil/vinegar dipper and with butter and jam. Absolutely excellent.

I'll be making this bread every week from now on. I'll experiment with different baking vessels, flours, proportions of salt and additions of wheat bran, oat, flax, herbs, etc... I'll keep you appraised of my findings.

If you happen to make this bread, please post your version, any modifications you made and your impressions. We can experiment together instead of reading the thousands of blog posts and comments already made about this recipe...

Wednesday, July 18

Yellow chickpea curry

A few days ago I left some dried beans to soak overnight. The next day I rinsed the beans and boiled them (in separate pots) until al dente. From a teeny amount of dried beans, I was granted a full platter of pinto, kidney, black beans and chickpeas.

Some of these went into salads for lunches, some into refried spicy beans served with mango and beef quesadillas, and some others were made into falafel. The rest were frozen in old yogurt containers labeled: "3-bean medley".

The chickpeas, however, were carefully separated out from the other legumes and were made into a quick "pantry and freezer" curry (definition: curry made solely with pantry and freezer ingredients).

Quick yellow chickpea curry
(measurements are approximate)

  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp curry paste (I used a spicy madras)
  • 2 cups chickpeas that were soaked, then boiled (or use 1 can, drained)
  • 2 cubes of frozen spinach
  • handful frozen peas
  • 1 mango*, cubed
  • handful cilantro, roughly chopped
1. cook onion and garlic until soft (if you want, add sliced chili at this stage)

2. add curry paste until it becomes fragrant (add a little water if it's sticking to the pot)

3. mix in chickpeas, add enough water to just barely cover, and boil gently until almost cooked

4. stir in spinach, peas, mango and cilantro and cook until heated through

5. serve with basmati rice and naan

*I added mango to curry for the first time today. I make mango chutney all the time, but never thought of adding this fruit to hot curries - I'll definitely do it more often now! The mango adds great sweetness and balances the spiciness well.

Sunday, July 15

Firecracker shrimp

For tonight's dinner I made firecracker shrimp and a simple noodle dish with snow peas from the Farmer's Market. Noodles were fairly ordinary - fish sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, scallions, snow peas and carrots. It was the little firecrackers that sparkled...ah, yeah, couldn't resist.

The shrimp was made using a modification of Jaden's recipe (thanks Jaden!!). I didn't have the egg roll wrappers she recommends and only had small shrimp (I cheap out when buying shrimp) so my firecrackers were petite but quite cute actually!

It's easy - just follow along with Jaden's detailed tutorial on technique. Here's my brief summary:

1. marinade the shrimp in whatever you want - I used ginger, garlic, chili, soy, sesame oil

2. pat dry then place onto triangular-shaped wrappers - depending on size, you may have to make small cuts into the U-shaped section to straighten them out a little

3. wrap tightly, using a little water for "glue"

4. deep fry - I used a small straight-sided pot with about 1cm of oil until the colour was right

I kept extra wrappers and already-made shrimp roll-ups under a damp, clean, dish-towel to prevent drying out. After frying, I placed into a warm oven on a pie plate lined with paper towel until the rest were done. I served them with a spicy chili sauce (chili paste, Hoisin sauce, brown sugar, soy, sesame).

Ah, yeah. Ian and I ate all 24 of these little firecrackers. Well, the shrimp were tiny and I only used six wrappers, each cut into four triangles. There really wasn't that much there...

Saturday, July 14

Crêpes for brunch

I like serving crêpes for brunch. It's an easy recipe and process, but one that usually impresses. This particular time I used kamut flour, but two months ago, I used spelt.

For the batter start by beating two eggs with a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add approximately 2 cups flour and 2 cups milk, until the batter is the consistency of condensed milk - runny, but not too runny. Then, to a medium-hot pan, add a sliver of butter, and a small ladle-full of batter. Working quickly, twirl the pan to shape the batter into a rough circle. See the air bubbles? Time to flip the crêpe!

For easy entertaining, I presented the crêpes with sweetened ricotta cheese (ricotta with sifted icing sugar and vanilla), fruit and chocolate sauce. Each guest assembled their own.

I like to fold my crêpes, but you could roll them like a "French burrito" and eat them with your hands. Easy and tasty and relatively healthy.

Monday, July 9

The unlikely stars

When I was a child visiting my grandparents in Poland, I would be put to the task of shelling peas. I didn't enjoy despised this task. It seemed that no matter how many buckets of peas I shelled, my efforts ended with only a small bowlful. But recently at our Farmer's Market,I picked up a bagful. Standing there in front of the compost, shelling these babies, I was brought back to that time in my life.

Except that this time, it was different.

I enjoyed this experience - the crisp snapping of the pod, the prying open of the perfect seam to reveal these exquisite green jewels all in a row. So perfect.

I still only ended up with a small colander full, but it was worth it. Wait until you see the colour of these jewels when cooked. The pea was the undisputed star of this dinner.

Introducing the supporting actor: green garlic.

I bought this garlic from Wally's Urban Market Garden. Their "garden" is actually comprised of many residential plots throughout the city. They grow shoots, baby greens and herbs, among other things. From their website: " [we] practice an eco-friendly form of agriculture, one that puts less pressure on rural habitats, and fosters self-reliance in an urban setting". I'm loving this concept.

For our meat n' potatoes dinner, we decided on steak with garlic herbed potatoes (dill and parsley from our good friends' Wendy and Mike's garden) and simple peas.

Usually, the steak would be the star of such a meal, but for me, it was all about the earthy garlic and the sweet green peas!

Saturday, July 7

Chain Eating

We have a chain out west here called Earls (be careful if you open the website, sound is loud and can be turned off in the bottom left corner). It's sort of like a Kelsey's or Moxies with what you would expect to be average, but not terribly interesting food.

When we were in Jasper, one of the nights we decided to forgo the fancy food and eat at Earls. We shared pretty typical appetizers - edamame and calamari (healthy and then...not so much). Our dinner entrées were what surprised me a bit - jeera chicken curry, a green thai curry (with zucchini and pineapple!) and a chicken ciabatta with brie, roasted apples and fig jam. Somewhat unexpected combos at a casual chain like Earls.

The lighting was sub-par, so the other shots didn't really turn out :(

Thursday, July 5

Fiddle River Seafood in Jasper

You wouldn't think of seafood as being the optimal choice when in the mountains, but Fiddle River is known for their seafood. After Ula, Ian and I were seated, a chalkboard easel containing about a dozen daily specials was placed by our table. We ordered drinks and set out to read the menu. Ok, who am I kidding? I set out to read the menu while Ula and Ian set out to choose something to eat.

I absorbed some of the 'chalkboard' specials - a beef dish, lobster, crab, trio of local fish. Even though much of the menu was dedicated to seafood, about the same amount was non-fishy - interesting bison, turkey, even elk dishes as well as lamb and beef. Plenty of choices for all. Didn't really look too close to see if their was much for my vegetarian friends... ah, sorry.

Our chosen meal follows, along with my interpretation of each dish. We shared the two appetizers.

Beggar's Purse. Maple syrup and sage roasted turkey purses with quinoa and tomato tarragon mint jus. Quinoa was very creamy, almost like a risotto. Jus was quite strange to our tastes but I think that's a result of my under-use of tarragon. Note to self - make something with tarragon (any suggestions?). I couldn't really taste the maple or sage and in fact, was quite surprised when looking back at my notes that this was an intended flavour. The 'spaghetti' beet garnish was a great touch, al dente and quite sweet.

Pan Fried Crab Cakes. Pan roasted sherry turmeric flavoured crab cakes with chipotle mayonnaise and lemon caper virgin olive oil. My favourite dish of the evening. Crab cakes weren't overpowered by the 'crabby' flavour and matched well with the turmeric. Chipotle mayo was smoky without too much spice and the huge briny capers cut through the creaminess of the crab and mayo. I have to say, I was much impressed with the turmeric, chipotle and caper combo - an unexpected match, but it worked!

Panko Fish and Chips. Trio of fishy choices served with moulade and marinated salad. This was my dish, chosen off the 'chalkboard' menu. I wish I had taken a pic from a different angle to catch the shape of the three small fillets. Oh well. Also, I asked to switch out the chips for rice, and I think they switched out the salad too. The three fish were cod, halibut and pickerel. Crust was a little too tough for my tastes, and the cod was too dry. Regular readers of this blog will already know that overcooked seafood makes me angry. I appreciated the bed of rice and petite lentils - it made me feel like I was eating something healthy next to the fried fish. Grilled veg was also surprising, with choices like grilled tomato and corn. Rémoulade was a fresh alternative to traditional tartar sauce.

Bison - New York Cut. Alberta bison char-broiled and topped with chimichurri. Ian's dish. From the piece I tasted, it was quite tender (nice and bloody!) and the parsley sauce paired well. Mashed potatoes weren't terribly inspired, although good home cookin'.

Oven Roasted Lamb Loin. Sprinkled with herbed bread crumbs and grainy mustard. Ula's dish. Also melt-in-your-mouth tender at medium-rare. The sprinkling of bread crumbs unsettled me a little since I wanted a more pure taste to the lamb, but Ula didn't say anything about it, so I don't think it bothered her. I wonder if they make the mustard themselves.

Overall, I'm glad we went. We were thinking of skipping it because I had recently blown that money in New Brunswick on the crappy seafood, but since this place was highly recommended, we figured we should try it out. After all, we saved on breakfast and lunches by packing picnics. Ah, yeah. That's how I'm going to justify it.

Don't be fooled by the informal dining room. The taste combinations and food presentation at Fiddle River Seafood are definitely worth making a reservation for.

Monday, July 2

Fresh salad

When Ula was here, we tried a variety of salads for lunch - here's one of them with a side of sweet carrots.

This one consisted of chive blossoms, carrot, peach, cabbage, pine nuts, romaine, radish, goat cheese and a simple vinaigrette. When tossed, the cheese melted a little and made the dressing somewhat creamy which resulted in the juxtaposition of crisp fresh veggies and a smooth yet light coating. I topped my plate with loads of black pepper because I'm a spice fiend.