Sunday, July 22, 2007

Barbecued Perogies...Who Knew?

I haven't touched my barbecue lately on account of a ridiculous schedule and all too frequent downpours. But these last two days, sitting at home and reading the latest escapade of our friend Harry Potter, I finally had time to cook...even though it was nothing very fancy.

Two days ago my girlfriend revealed that she had a craving for perogies. When it comes of those little morsels of carbs and starch I'm really not one to refuse. So, taking the frozen grocery store variety out of our freezer, I boiled the perogies and prepared a frying pan in which I placed bacon, chopped onion and garlic. But this time, instead of transferring the perogies to a skillet full of peanut oil, I brought the little dough balls to the barbecue. The result was nicely charred, crispy and puffy perogies accompanied by the bacon mixture, sour cream, salsa and hot sauce. And anyone who says "Ew!" to salsa on perogies hasn't tried it yet. They're a match made in heaven

In my book (dans mon livre à moé) everything can be grilled except the obvious exceptions such as eggs and other liquid food items. I cook corn (without the husk) directly on the grill and make sure to get loads of barbecue sauce in between each individual kernel. Today I even cooked some bacon strips on the grill to go with my hamburgers. They sizzled beautifully over the flames they were feading in the bottom of my bbq. I then sandwiched them between the patty and a slice of processed cheese, waited for the cheese to melt and then splattered my face in the tomatoey, pickle, onion, jerk bbq sauce goodness of the hamburger more appropriately called a manwich. Simple but delicious.

Now I just have to figure out a way of making my patties taste less bland, a feat I haven't yet achieved dispite the fact that I load it with flavoured bread crumbs, cajun spice mix, chopped red onion, and an egg. Sigh *

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Food on the Backburner

My schedule at work right now makes it nearly impossible for me to cook anything. I go to work at 9 AM and come back at 7 PM which means that almost all my meals are limited to sandwiches, granola bars, and frozen foods.

I have, however, had the chance to go for a hike on Sunday at Fundy National Park here in New Brunswick. The trail was about a 45 minute walk and then you came upon a really nice waterfall (pictured above). The hitch is that you had to climb back up the steep hill for a good 15 minutes...wait loss the natural way ;)

For lunch on our hike we brought some sweet peas and fresh garden carrots we had bought at the market the day before. They're coming into season and they make a great snack...better than anything which has suffered through some sort of cooking process. Oh and while I'm talking about the market, might as well mention that I bought a huge jug of goat's milk to make cajeta (mexican milk-based caramel). I'll post the yummy results of this soon. Till then, sorry for not posting much...I really wish I could be cooking instead of...well...doing anything else :)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Soup & Stew

I had frozen soup I made about a month back in my freezer and have ventured into the not always successful practice of reheating previously fresh food. The soup I mimicked from a small café here in Moncton. With sausage meat balls, lots of chick peas, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, canned chopped tomatoes, and some fresh ginger, this soup is really nice. The added ginger also give it a suprising flavour you wouldn't expect.

I like making soups because you could basically try any flavour combination as a test run to see if they blend well together. The required cooking time and usual suspects - broth, carrots, celery, onions, and garlic - welcome almost anything you throw at them. Any protein is welcome along with any starch and vegetables. Soups, I think, are one of the most versatile food. Plus, when you do fall upon a delicious combination, you can always take from the soup stage and try to make those flavours stand alone.

Another deliciously variable cooking process is the stew. For this particular stew I tried to deviate from the usual by using Asian ingredients. The recipe list goes as follows: bacon, stew beef, kimchi cabbage (yes I still have some and am trying to use it as much as possible for nothing more than to get rid of it), sliced onion, carrots, potatoes, canned sweet peas, beef broth, rice wine vinegar, red chilli paste, sesame oil and a bay leaf. The end result - cooked all day in a crock pot - tasted pretty much like your everyday stew. Good. But average.

Mistake 1: I should have put some of the kimchi "juice" in with the stew. Mistake 2: Cooking the stew for a shorter period of time would possibly have kept the Asian flavours intact. Happy discovery 1: Vinegar in stew is really good. I've tried beef bourguignon before which is made with red wine but vinegar really gives the stew an added dimension.

So, in conclusion, I can't push soups and stew enough. Eat them always with a nice little sandwich and life is good...not to suggest that life without these cannot be good but the chances dramatically decrease with the absence of homecooked food.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Spaghetti Gratiné & Personal Pita Pizzas

We've almost always eaten our spaghetti with a mound of broiled cheese on top. It's obviously heavier on the fattiness side but it's really worth it. All you do is preheat your the broiler of your oven, put your cooked spaghetti in an oven proof plate, top with you favourite spaghetti sauce recipe and then add grated cheese. Pop it in the oven till the cheese is brown and bubbly and then serve the hot plate in another plate so that it doesn't burn your table. This recipe is simple but really good for those comfort food days.

Though spaghetti gratiné was a stolen idea, our recipe for pita pizzas is original - meaning that we didn't find it in a cookbook or anything. What you need for these are greek style pitas (i.e. not pocket pitas), some canned pizza sauce, and your toppings of choice. What's great about this is that everyone can have what they want on their own individual pizza. So for all of you parents out there, this is one of the really kid friendly meals.

Before you put your pita pizzas in the oven, you need to prepare your ingredients. Chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, ham, cooked bacon, onions, olives, peppers, pepperoni, grated moza cheese, feta, artichoke hearts, proscuitto, smoked herring or salmon, hot peppers, and pretty much anything else you can think of are great ingredients. The best thing is that everyone has choice and variety enough to satisfy everyone's eating habits.

These and other really obvious meals brought to you by Pat, the future owner of Stone Spoon Bistro.

Delicious Breakfast or Light Desert

My girlfriend works at a grocery store where they prepare these little containers of pre-made snacks and salads. She saw these containers of yogourt that are simple yet oh so delicious. The trick is that instead of putting oat clusters in with the yogourt and fruit, you add trail mix. This one in particular uses "California" trail mix which includes peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and raisins. We used low fat strawberry yogourt but almost anything would do as far as combinations go. That is to say that any trail mix would go well with almost any combination of fresh fruit and yogourt. You really have to try's crunchy, simple, and fantastic!

Kimchi Soup

I like spicy food. My girlfriend, on the other hand, is not a huge fan. But with this kimchi soup, the spice was definitely strong but not too strong that it scalds the tongue so that it can't taste anything anymore. The flavours of the kimchi, the onions, the ginger, the noodles, and the mushrooms really blended well together to make a really tasty soup. This soup is, however, best served in smaller quantities or on a day where you're really craving spicy food.

I've included below the recipe for making kimchi as well as the recipe for the soup.

1 Napa cabbage or 2 chinese cabbages
1 cup salt
1/2 gallon water
8 or more cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tsp fresh ginger
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup Korean ground red pepper OR cayenne and paprika
1/4 cup scallions

1. Chop cabbage into large strips and submerge in water with salt for 3 to 4 hours. What this does is draw some of the water out of the cabbage...something to do with osmosis or something like that...
2. Meanwhile, mix garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and red pepper together in a bowl to make a sort of paste. This mixture is basically a homemade and very inauthentic gochojang. So if you do have access to gochujang by all means go with that.
3. Once the cabbage is done soaking, squeeze out most of the water, layer the strips in a masson jar or other sealable container with the spice mixture and press firmly. There should be some liquid enough to disolve the spice mixture but not enough that it takes up all the room. The cabbage really has to be packed down.
4. Marinate 2-3 days and then serve as a condiment to Korean cuisine, in a stir fry or in my kimchi soup.

Kimchi Soup
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cups kimchi with liquid
1 cup cubed mushrooms
1 tbsp fresh ginger
4 cups or 1 litre of low sodium beef broth
handful of rice noodles OR white sticky rice
freshly chopped cilantro

1. Saute onion with a bit of canola or other unscented oil till translucent. Throw in kimchi, ginger and mushrooms and heat through.
2. Add beef broth and bring to a boil.
3. Once the soup is boiling, add the rice noodles if you choose to use these. If you're going with the sticky rice, simply serve a bowl of rice along with the bowl of soup.
4. Serve warm with cilantro and a glass of milk to put out the fire.

Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Simple Hearty Supper

It's a habit of mine to starve myself when I work which means that I'm nearly famished by the time I get home for supper. Lucky for me, my girlfriend was off and decided to prepare it all for when I did get home.

What we had was nothing really extravagant. The steak we grill on the bbq with salt & pepper and simply pour on some barbecue sauce after the meat is cooked to medium-well perfection. With that we often sauté some small button mushrooms with onion, garlic & butter. This time I used some of the leftover butter I had from the mushroom sarnies (see previous post).

With that my girlfriend prepared to of her famous salads. Though the macaroni salad is nothing fancy, it's really delicious. She prepares it with macaroni (of course), loads of sweet imitation crab, sometimes includes cubes of ham when we have some left over, about half a brick of cheddar cubes, shredded carrots, chopped scallions & celery, and enough mayo to bring the whole thing together into a satisfying whole. The result is something sweet - but not too sweet - which is also tasty and creamy.

The last feature of this feast is also one of my girlfriend's favourites: "Greek" salad (the apostrophes are there because I'll be the first to admit that lettuce has nothing to do in an authentic Greek salad). With tomatoes, feta, red onions, unpitted kalamata olives (non of that tasteless canned crap), and romaine lettuce, this salad is already off to a good start. But what truly makes it a joy to eat is the sharp vinaigrette my girlfriend makes with it. The trick is that the large amount lemon juice makes every ingredient sing as if they were all from the cast of The Sound of Music. So here's the recipe!

Sharp Greek Vinaigrette
1 1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
splash of white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp dried or fresh whole oregano
2 small garlic cloves minced

1) Mix all ingredients together and be sure to shake well before drizzling vinaigrette onto salad. And please note that this vinaigrette should only be made and used on the day of consumption...any longer and the ingredients seperate and their taste transforms into something which is not nearly as tasty.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Fish Tortillas With Kiwi Salsa

I got the idea (not the recipe) for fish tortillas with a fruit salsa from one of Bobby Flay's shows. Though I usually serve my tortillas with mango salsa like Flay did, I had kiwis on hand and figured I would try it out. Also something different I did was grill the fish instead of lightly coating it in flour, salt and pepper and pan frying it. The result of these changes was that the kiwi didn't stand up to the other flavours (especially those of the salsa) and half the fish flaked off to the bottom of my bbq. With a good splash of fresh lemon juice, the result was good but not as delicious as when I make it with mango salsa.

Anywho, for the salsa, simply combine 1 cubed mango, about half that amount of red onion, a jalapeno or pepper of choice, handful cilantro, a clove of garlic and juice of 1 lime. Use any fish you like and serve with fresh lemon to squeeze.

Dinner & A Movie

Seeing as it was the long weekend and that my girlfriend and I finally had a day off together, we figured we'd go out. Considering that we're new to town, every restaurant is a new discovery. For this reason, we started our mapping of Moncton's food route at Pastalli's Italian Cuccina which I'd seen reviewed by The Two Fat Guys in the newspaper recently. Though I also found the "grill your own garlic bread" station fun, the prices very reasonable and the decor to rival any first class restaurant, my review isn't as raving as theirs.

For an antipasti I chose to go with the Boconcchini & Tomato Salad which was what you would expect if to be. The slices of tomatoes and boconcchini were very lightly drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette and drenched in tasteless olive oil as were the few greens which accompanied the salad. Though the boconcchini was creamy and fresh, I think it should have been left alone with the tomato, alot less olive oil (or at least better olive oil) and more balsamic vinaigrette. I give this dish a 7.

For a main course, I eventually opted for the Stuffed Chicken Marsala. The menu announced the following: charbroiled chicken breast filled with Italian cheese and sun dried tomatoes, topped with grilled mushroom (1/2 a button mushroom to be precise) and creamy Marsala sauce served with wild mushroom risotto. Also on my plate was a small sweet salad of greens, shredded carrots and tomatoes. The Marsala sauce was very delicious with the chicken but the whole serving couldn’t be eaten by anyone over the age of 8 without finding the chicken way too sweet. The risotto and salad did help to cut a bit of the sweetness but by the end of the plate I was left slightly above the level of moderately impressed. For a dish a bit too sweet for my taste, I also give the stuffed chicken marsala a 7.

Finally, the desert course. We ordered the Irish cheese cake and Nutcraker square. To make the cheese cake Irish, they simply added Bailey's Irish Cream. Though the taste was alright, the cheese cake was more of a butter cake as far as texture goes. The nutcraker on the other hand was a delicious stack of hazlenut crispy crust and chocolate/nut mousse...very good.

Though I've been harsh on Pastalli's, it's only because they're my future competition. It's nice to know that the competition isn't that intimidating. And Pastalli's is everything you would expect an Itialian restaurant to be. It's decor says high end, it's prices say reasonable, it's food says midway. I might return but I was definitely not blown away. Pastalli gets a 6.

After Pastalli's we went to see the ever so popular Ratatouille. What I especially enjoyed about the film were the details. For example you'll see scratch marks on the copper pots...and that's just one of the amazing details.
The story was also fun. Though I'm not sure if the movie was made for adults or children, Ratatouille is definitely worth seeing especially if you enjoy everything food. And just one last thing, I'd love to have Remy's sense of palette and senses. I guess that also means I wish I was a rat...