Sunday, 12 April 2015

Working on My Zuchinni Body

So, a few weeks ago I posted a recipe for fresh pasta and I'm sure you have practising every weekend. Right? Well, I have. So today I made a stuffed pasta. It's not quite a ravioli, more like an agnolotti for the people who know the difference.

Precooked Agnalotti
The filling can be anything you like: meat, cheese, squash, spinach or whatever. It's usually made into a paste and laid into the pasta and fold it into the desired shape.Here I cubed grilled zucchini and covered a square sheet of pasta with another layer of pasta and sealed it.

It is an easy stuffing that takes minutes to make. If you want to make a cheese filling, you can easily research a recipe or if you want me to post a recipe, please write a comment asking me for a recipe you would like to see.

If you are adventurous enough to make the recipe, this gives you some serious street cred. And with ingredients that costs next to nothing, what do you have to lose?

When adding salt to the boiling water to cook the pasta, be sure to add enough salt to the point where you can actually taste the salt when you try tasting the water. Add a small drizzle of oil to the water so that it is less likely to boil over while cooking the pasta. If you added too much salt to the water, simply press control, salt, delete.

Grilled Zuchinni Stuffed Agnalotti with Caramelized Onions and Spinach

Photos by my totally talented daughter Iris. 
1 Zuchinni, cut into 4 strips
Tsp. Dried Basil
Fresh pasta (see previous post)
1 Red Onion, julienne
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 Handful of Spinach
A few drizzles of oil
250 ml Tomato Sauce (preferably homemade)
1 tbs Parmigiano-Reggiano and Flatbread for garnish
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Make fresh pasta and lay down on your prep table into long strips.

Preheat your grill to high heat. Toss zucchini in oil and a pinch of salt and pepper and dried basil. Grill 2 minutes on each side. Allow to cool and cut into small cubes.

Using a pizza cutter, cut pasta into approximately 1" by 1" squares. Spoon a small amount of the grilled veg on every second square. Take another square of pasta and cover. Using a fork, press the edges along the side to seal the stuffing into the pasta square. Repeat until stuffing has been used up. This recipe made approximately 12 agnolottis making it 2 portions. Set aside.

Bring salted water to a boil.  

In a frying pan, drizzle small amount of oil and sauté onions for 2 minutes. Add crushed garlic and continue for another 7 minutes or until onions are caramelized. Add spinach, pinch of salt and pepper. Keep warm on low heat.

Throw pasta into the water and cook for 7 minutes. Drain and lightly toss agnalotti in oil to keep from sticking. Heat tomato sauce and spoon small amount of sauce into the base of the bowl. Layer agnolotti on top of the sauce, garnish with onions and spinach, cheese and flatbread.

Serves 2.

A Humble Chef's tip: use lots of water when cooking the pasta. It absorbs a fair amount when cooking.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Like Peanut Butter

My son is a peanut butter fiend. He's nuts about the stuff. We usually buy a large container and whoosh! it's gone. We use it for sandwiches, sauces, soups and right off the spoon. It is unfortunate that the allergies out there are so potent and dangerous that we all must spread lightly.

Here is a recipe my daughter and I did on a lovely Sunday afternoon as an after thought. We took a recipe from an old cookbook from my childhood and changed it up a little. It is extremely quick and easy peasy. Perfect for a kid to do.

We tried buying the all natural peanut butter over the icing sugar peanut butter but it did not go over very smoothly. I actually prefer the all natural product over the standard non-splitting kind but it is a battle that I'd rather not fight.

Some of you may not be aware that peanut butter was invented by a crafty Canadian. It's one of those odd trivial pieces of information that I just have to spread.

PBJ Cookies

175 g (3/4 Cup) Butter, softened
115 g (1/2 Cup) Brown Sugar
55 g (1/4 Cup) White Sugar
1 Egg
Splash of Vanilla Extract
1 Tbs. Smooth Peanut Butter
225 g (1 3/4 Cups) AP Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder

Peanut Butter and Jam of your choice for the filling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Don't bother greasing your cookie sheet.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter for 3 minutes or until fluffy. Add sugars and continue to beat for 3-4 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and mix for one minute. Fold in peanut butter.

In a separate bowl, add baking powder to the flour and sift together. Add flour and blend.

Mold cookie dough into an even amount of balls and lay on your cookie sheet. Using a fork, press down on dough to create a disk. Create a cross hatch pattern on the cookie dough by pressing the fork the opposite direction.

Bake for 13 - 14 minutes.

Let cool slightly prior to spread peanut butter and jam and making your cookie sandwiches.

Makes 10 or 12 full cookies sandwiches.

A Humble Chef's tip: use a good quality jam for the sandwiches. If you're going to go through the trouble of making the cookies, might as well use a bloody good jam.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Uno, Dos, Trays

Do any of you like making hors d'oeuvre? Honestly? Really? Seriously? Come on. No you don't. Maybe you enjoy presenting a tray full of bite sized gems at parties, but making them is such a pain. However I bet you love eating them. Yes, I am sure you do. So, keep your hors d'oeuvre selection simple, light, hopefully inexpensive and definitely full of flavour.

This recipe is the first of three from tonight. The theme was Central American which is often simple, inexpensive and full of flavour. This a super simple recipe that takes moments to assemble and will cost you pennies (if you still have some). 

You can purchase canned beans if you want. I wouldn't. It will taste metallic and mushy. Do yourself the party favour and cook the beans from dry: Soak the beans overnight, drain, cover with fresh water, and boil  for 70 - 80 minutes. Add a pinch salt for last 5 minutes of cooking and drain. That's it. Then, allow to cool and do whatever you want with them (including the next recipe I will post on the blog). You all know the health benefits of beans so I won't even go into it. 

One more note: soaking beans. There are two sides to the coin. Heads: soaking removes flavour and does little to the cooking time and is actually inadvisable. Tails: soaking them removes phytic and enzyme inhibitors which helps with digestion. I still soak them myself. But go ahead and do your own research and decide for yourself which argument is more full of beans.

Tortilla Chip with Black Bean Salsa

150 g Black Turtle Beans, cooked
1/2 Avocado
1 Roma Tomato, diced
1 Garlic Clove, crushed
1 Tbs. Tamarind Paste (if unavailable, use the juice of half a lime)
A Few Spinach Leaves, chiffonade
Corn Tortilla Chips (Que Pasa makes a great Organic Unsalted Tortilla Chip)
A Few Splashes of Tabasco

In a metal bowl, smash avocado to a paste. Add garlic and tamarind and mash for a few minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, Tabasco, salt and stir until blended. Let sit for at least 15 minutes. Check for seasonings.

Dollop a spoonful onto a chip and garnish with spinach chiffonade.

Makes a few dozen appetizers.

A Humble Chef's tip: this is completely vegetarian,dairy free and gluten free. Great for parties where you aren't sure of any allergies. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

What To Do On a Date

Yesterday was fun. I spent the afternoon trying out some recipes and spending time with Iris. After making pasta,she asked if we could bake some cookies. I went through our baking goods and found dried dates beside the brown sugar. And so I decided to use them up for sticky toffee pudding.

This is a simple recipe that I used for Mother's Day brunches in large quantity. Compared to many others I researched, this is by far the simplest. No steaming, you see. Easy to freeze and reheat, sticky toffee can be made individually or in large quantity. It is also very inexpensive and uses ingredients that most people will have in their home inventory most days of the week.

Anyways, try this recipe on a Sunday afternoon for your fam. They won't be disappointed. In fact, it is so simple that you should deduct an administration toffee from their dessert account.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

55 g Dried Dates, finely chopped
200 ml Water, boiling
1 Tsp Baking Soda

100 g Butter (plus a little extra for greasing ramekins or muffin tins or whatever), room temp
150 g Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tsp.  Almond Extract
125 g Flour
.5 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Baking Powder

For the sauce:

120 g Butter
175 g Brown Sugar
1 Tbs Frangelico liqueur (optional?) 
200 ml 35% Whipping Cream 
Pinch of Cinnamon 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease ramekins with butter. 

On your stove top, bring water to a boil. Add your dates and removed from heat. Stir for 1 minute. Add baking soda and watch it rise. Let cool for a few minutes.

In a stand mix or with a hand mixer, cream the butter for one minute. Add sugar and continue blending for another minute. Add eggs one at a time and almond extract and mix until blended. 

In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powpow. Whisk to combine and add to the wet mixture. Mix until blended. Pour in liquid dates and fold together. 

Pour mixture into your ramekins and bake for 20 - 22 minutes. Careful not to fill too high. The pudding rises and can overflow. It's a neat look but a pain to wash.

For the sauce: In a sauce pan melt butter until frothy. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add 100 ml of the cream and bring to a boil stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add Frangelico and stir. 

Whip remaining cream until stiff peaks. Add pinch of cinnamon. 

Using a paring knife, cut around the pudding in the ramekin and remove onto plate. Drizzle (or drown, according to preference) with caramel sauce and garnish with whipped cinnamon cream. 

Makes 8 servings. 

A Humble Chef's tip: when chopping up your dates, dip your knife into hot water occasionally and wipe. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Brave Noodle World

I posted many years ago a recipe to make fresh pasta and quite honestly, my feelings haven't changed that much from then. Fresh pasta is a bit of a novelty. But it is a fun one.

I have a new recipe that is a little larger quantity but I find it works well and it's easy to remember: 3 cups flour, 6 eggs, drizzle of oil. Plus a little extra flour during kneading.

This post will have mostly photographs taken by my lovely daughter who is really interested in doing things with me, include cooking. She has a good eye and none of the pictures taken were cropped or edited. Not bad eh?

I have decided to make fresh pasta once a week and practice making different types of shapes and fillings. Last week I made tagliatelle and this week a thinner spaghetti shape. Next weekend, I intend to continue this recent trend and bend the pasta into a penne lisce shape.

This recent trend is an attempt to feel more connected to my food and kind of get back to basics. I have recently taken a job where I am no longer a chef (I am now a Food & Beverage Manager of a golf course in the Ottawa region) and I don't intend to cook in a professional kitchen anymore. Home, however, is another story. Cooking remains a love of mine and making more homemade meals is, without a doubt, an absolute knead.

Fresh Egg Pasta

3 Cups or 725g AP Flour
6 Eggs
Drizzle of Olive Oil

Make a volcano with the flour
Fill volcano with lava yolks
 Whip the lava with a fork and slowly mix with the flour.
Once eggs are combined, start mixing with your hands and make a ball.

Knead for several minutes. The way I knead is lift dough from the top towards you.
Then use the palm of your hand and push into the dough away from you.
Turn dough 90 degrees and repeat until dough is firm and a little sticky.
Keep kneading!
Kneading gets harder and harder until it forms this type of shape.
Cover with plastic wrap and put in your fridge for an hour.
Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough before using the roller.
Time to pull out that pasta roller from your wedding.

Stage 1 of rolling. There is a dial on the side to adjust thickness.
Turn the dial one notch after every roll to make the pasta thinner and thinner.

With the spaghetti attachment. 

Easier when you have help.

Cook in boiling salted water for 5 - 6 minutes with a small amount of oil and stirring frequently.

Makes 10 - 12 portions.

A Humble Chef's tip: I'm freezing half of the batch in individual portions. The pasta cooks well right out the freezer. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Pop Goes The Corny Jokes

I love popcorn. I love it as a random snack. I love it at a movie. I love sharing it during family time. I love throwing Peanut M & M's into a bowl of freshly buttered popcorn and searching for the candy coated crunchiness as I'm enjoying them. But most of all, I love making popcorn. Either by myself or with one of my kids. It's the simplicity and nostalgia of it. I know few people who don't love the comfort of popcorn while watching Bilbo Baggins walk through the Misty Mountains.

For years I've been using a Whirley Pop that I purchased at a Home Sense many years ago. It was precious to me. But, like everything else, time and use has caught up to this simple cooking device. And now that we've moved to a smaller home, kitchen equipment has to be reduced. And with a colon and a front parenthesis I had to let go of my  Whirley Pop and move on.

But one day, my wife and I visited a friend for dinner and a drink. And out comes a large Le Creuset cast iron pot and some corn kernels. She makes her popcorn by adding a spoonful of oil and adds the kernels, covers it and shakes it on top of her stove top. So simple. So easy. And while it doesn't work quite as well as the Whirley Pop design, it certainly does the trick.

And as everyone knows, popcorn is inexpensive and fun and very adaptable. And so instead of just melting butter and tossing it with some salt, why not try something else....

Oh, and by the way, microwavable popcorn is truly terrible. I have purchased it of course but I never will ever again. It has way too many ingredients that I can't pronounce (a bad sign) and it has a terrible texture and an awful flavour. I'm dead against anything that isn't butter but tries it's best to be butter. It just doesn't work.

Time now for a quiz about Popcorn. We shall call it a Pop Quiz.

Q: What did Mama Corn say when she got angry at her kid kernels?

A: Wait 'til your Pop Corn gets home.

Q: When does popcorn get lost?

A: When it's in the maize.

Q: What do you call the one kernel never seems to pop at the end?

A: Unicorn

Simple Caramel Corn

1 Cup of Popcorn Kernels
Drizzle of Peanut Oil
50 ml Maple Syrup
1 Cup Brown Sugar
Splash of Vanilla Extract
1 Tsp. Baking Soda

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium high heat. Add popcorn and shake for 3 - 5 minutes or until popcorn has completed popping. If you use other methods of making popcorn (not microwaving obviously) use the method most comfortable for you. Put popcorn in a large bowl and set aside.

In a sauce pan, melt butter. Add brown sugar, vanilla extract and maple syrup and bring to boil stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add baking soda immediately. Slow pour over popcorn while tossing to evenly coat. Continue to toss until caramel has been absorbed. Lay out on a baking sheet and allow to cool.

Place back into a bowl and serve.

Serves 6.

A Humble Chef's tip: have a friend help when pouring the caramel sauce. This is a great recipe to do with kids also. 

A Second Humble Chef's Tip: I've also been told to keep popcorn in the freezer. It keeps the kernels fresher. I was skeptical at first but I find it is fluffier and pops in the "butterfly" variety versus the "mushroom" variety. Besides, the side of the packaging usually recommends it. Colon and back bracket. 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

And In The End, The Love You Make Is Equal To The Love You Bake

My family and I had company over and we had a great time having Beef and Black Bean Stew with a lovely red. After dinner, and dessert, we had a wonderful time playing poetry challenge, which inspired me to write  a poem for today's recipe post.

John Keats I am not, but I doubt he could bake a cookie as tasty as I do.

Ode to the Chocolate Chip Cookie

A kitchen of smells and mellow spiciness, 
Close bosom-friend of the delectable bun;
Conspiring with him how to make a mess
With fresh fruit the sugars grow in the warmth of the sun;
To bake with desire, and on our hands and knees, 
And fill all bellies with deliciousness to the core;
To swell the taste buds, and bellies all too well;
With a sweet tooth; to keep eating more,
And still more, later dipped into our teas,
Until the crusty baker decides to cease,
For I have a recipe I have decided to tell. 

Spiced Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 and a Half Sticks Of Butter, softened
1 Cup of Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
3/4 Cup of White Sugar
2 Eggs
Splash of Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup of Maple Syrup
3 Cups of Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tps of Salt
1/2 Tsp Nutmeg
1/2 Tsp Allspice
1/2 Tsp Cloves
1 Cup of Chopped Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Preheat oven to 325 f. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

Using a stand mixer or electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes. Add sugars and beat for 3 more minutes or until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and maple syrup and blend.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and spices and sift together. Add to the butter mixture in two batches. Add chocolate chunks. 

Spoon into your hand and make a ball. Place on baking sheet and flatten. Bake for 9 - 11 minutes.

Serve with Pomegranate Seeds or Orange wedges for garnish.

Makes about 30 cookies.