Lamb Burgers

Focaccia BunsFor dinner on Saturday night, Edmund made rosemary focaccia buns and cooked some ground lamb patties.  We garnished with a little harissa, goat cheese, spinach greens, and my home-made mustard.  Dessert consisted of strawberries with a little freshly whipped cream sweetened with honey.

The really neat thing is that it’s relatively cheap and every bit as delicious as it sounds because everything is made at home.  It helps to have a bread machine to knead the dough, of course.

Lamb burgers

Get your tentacles offa my allies!

Fun Board-Games-and-Fine-Food Day this weekend with our friend Steve!  It started mid-morning with a rematch of Fantasy Flight Games’ Arkham Horror; last time we had a narrow, nail-biting victory over Hast’yr using the basic rules; this time we threw in the first expansion, Dunwich Horror.

The game featured investigators Mike McGlen the Gangster (Edmund), Leo Anderson the Expedition Leader (Steve), Sister Mary the Nun (me), and Kate Winthrop the Scientist (dead man’s hand, played cooperatively).  It ended with a nail-biter defeat against Abhoth — we took him down to one point left before going down in a blaze of glory gibbering insanity.  I really don’t mind losing when it’s suspenseful and feels like we had a chance.  I won’t go over the basics of the game since I have a thumbnail in my last game report.

Vanished Planet coverWe had a lunch of tasty nibbles and leftovers: some home-made chicken soup and chicken salad, Edmund made French bread which we ate piping hot, and we added a fruit and cheese platter.

After Abhoth (“a horrid, dark gray protean mass and is said to be the ultimate source of all miscreation and abomination”) had us over for lunch, we switched to another cooperative board game, Vanished Planet.  This game completely relies on players cooperation to beat the system; there is no option for switching alliances or competing for resources.  Continue reading “Get your tentacles offa my allies!”

What did we do before the Internet? Edition #237

Tortillas_20130619-01I had made a dish of brown rice, pinto beans, ham and pepper Jack cheese, and we had leftovers so last night my husband said, “Hey, why don’t you turn this into Mexican-style filling for dinner, and I’ll make some tortillas.”  Great idea!  I added peppers, green onions, cilantro, more ham, and cumin, reheated it with a couple of tablespoons of home-made chicken broth, and with a little care it became very suitable for the purpose.

Meanwhile, Edmund is experimenting with a recipe from his usually reliable bread recipe book, but is very unhappy with the dough texture he obtained.  He looks into another book, then another, nothing helpful.  Then we think, hey, Robert Rodriguez had this tortilla recipe in his “Ten-Minute Cooking School” extra to the Sin City DVD.  So we looked it up quickly online: you can find it and other “Cooking School” videos on YouTube, and the recipes have also been transcribed in various places.

After the addition of baking powder and some water, more kneading, and allowing 20 minutes to rise, the tortillas were ready to grill and we had a delicious home-made dinner.  Thank you, Robert Rodriguez!  ^_^

Tortillas_20130619-02

Citrus Cake of Awesomeness

Citrus cake

We had a party for my friend Dorene’s birthday and I made a a citrus cake that was very popular.  Every time I make this cake, people rave about it.  The original recipe is Apollina’s “Stella Cake” (and as she comments, it looks even more stunning if you can find blood oranges to decorate it.)

I use her recipe pretty much unmodified for the cake batter and the filling, with the added detail that I use fresh-picked Meyer lemons since we have a tree in the backyard.  Meyer lemons, if you don’t know them, are citrus fruit native to China thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange.  They have a gentle, not quite sweet but less biting flavour, extremely fragrant.  Plus, the zest of home-grown and freshly picked fruit is lighter and fluffier than that of store-bought fruit picked green for shipping and ripened artificially in containers.

The icing, however, didn’t work for me (if only because the quantities listed there yield enough icing for two cakes!) so I’ve replaced it with a “rich butter icing” I had from my mom’s staple recipes.  (Recipe after the cut.)  Continue reading “Citrus Cake of Awesomeness”

My Essay on “The Left Hand of Darkness”: Rationed Life

Momo and tsampa, by vendroitThe Week 9 reading assignment for my online class on Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World was Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.

This is the book I would love to love.  I feel it reflects poorly on me that it leaves me… cold (ha-ha.) As in most travelogues, the narrator is supposed to stand in for the reader. But it’s hard to read this 1969 book in 2013 and relate to the mentality that is expected to be shared by the reader about differences between genders; I felt more at home with Gilman in  this respect.

I wanted to love this book, I really did.  I sympathize with the theme, I sympathize with the people of all genders who were so relieved to finally see themselves in a book.  But unfortunately, I was never very interested in any of the characters on an emotional level.

More than anything, I failed to identify at all with the mentality that was assigned to the oh-so-advanced Ekumen, where gender issues should really have been no big thing at all.  I get that the narrator is supposed to stand in for an American reader in 1969, but thankfully, this mentality now seems incredibly old-fashioned, like watching Ensign Janice Rand in her short skirt bring memos for Captain Kirk to sign.

Here is my 300-word essay.  Continue reading “My Essay on “The Left Hand of Darkness”: Rationed Life”

Dinner in 25 minutes

lemonLast night, I made pan-fried wild-caught Alaska pink salmon with shawarma spice rub, steamed spinach, basil basmati rice, and lemon-garlic drizzle sauce.  All in less than half an hour, but for the first time since the holidays, I used all four stove burners at once.  Here is how!  This is the version for 2 persons, easily modified to suit.  Continue reading “Dinner in 25 minutes”

My Favourite Jambalaya

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras (a.k.a. Fat Tuesday), so what better way to celebrate than with my best jambalaya recipe.  I have tried several recipes over the years, then tinkered with them, because jambalaya is one of my very favourite dishes to make.  I’m partial to “red” jambalayas, and this one is the one I like best!  It’s based on a recipe by chef Pol Martin, but with my own adjustments.

JambalayaIngredients

  • 4 rashers of bacon, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 4-6 tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or one 15-oz can of tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) thyme
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) fennel seed ← Crucial, do not omit
  • 1 cup (250 mL) long-grain rice — see notes below
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chicken broth, warm
  • 1/2 lb (250 g) cooked meat, diced — ham, andouille sausage or chicken all work well for this
  • 3/4 lb (375 g) shrimp, cleaned and peeled — crawfish or crab also work well
  • 2 bell peppers, any colour, cut in thin strips
  • 2 ribs celery, finely sliced
  • a few drops of hot pepper sauce (e.g., Pickappeppa, Tabasco, etc.)
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. Cook the bacon on medium heat in a large pan that can also be used in the oven. Take the bacon out of the pan and set aside. Put the onion and garlic in the warm bacon fat and cook for 8 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, thyme and fennel seed, plus salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the rice (see notes below), meat and bacon. Mix well and bring to a boil. Cover and cook in the oven for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp, celery and peppers, mix well, and add a few drops of hot sauce.
    Cover, and cook in the oven for 8 to 10 more minutes.

Notes

The big issue of rice: In theory, you can either add the cup of uncooked rice and let it absorb all the liquid, but my mother, sister and I agree that the dish is much more memorable if you cook the cup of rice in water as normal before adding to the jambalaya. The resulting dish has a lot of free liquid in it, but we think that’s the best part.

Extra flavour: Replace 1/4 to 1/2 cup (60-125 mL) of the broth with white wine.

Cooking methods: If you have a large microwave-safe casserole with a lid, this recipe is easy (and faster) to make in a microwave oven. However, cooking times will vary according to the make and model.

If I’m in a hurry or I want to use the oven for something else, I have been known to cook the entire dish on the stovetop.

Slow-Cooker Day: Lemon Basil Chicken

Slow-Cooker ChickenJust set six big chicken breasts in the slow-cooker in an adaptation of the whole-chicken recipe Edmund used the other day.  I plan on using the extras from dinner for subsequent meals of chicken pasta and a Greek feta pie.  Here is how it goes:

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, washed and patted dry
  • 1 large onion or 2 small ones, finely sliced
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 2 lemons and grated zest of one (I use Meyer lemons, they have a nice sweetness)
  • 1/2 tsp (3 mL) Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp (3 mL) dried basil
  • 1/3 tsp (2 mL) paprika

Preparation

  1. Place the sliced onion in the bottom of the slow-cooker.
  2. Mix the olive oil with the herbs and spices, and brush over the chicken breasts.  Place the chicken over the onion in the slow-cooker.
  3. Sprinkle the parsley over the chicken, squeeze the lemon juice, and pour the rest of the mix of oil and herbs over everything.
  4. Cover and cook on Low for 6-7 edit: 4 to 6 hours or on High for 2 to 3 hours.
  5. Pull the chicken out and thicken the sauce on High with the juice of a third lemon and 3 to 4 Tbsp (45-60 mL) flour whisked in.  Serve with pasta, mashed potatoes, or rice.

Edit: Adjusted cooking times, added sauce instructions.

Edit #2: Leftovers were delicious with pasta, in soup and in feta pie.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

PulledPorkWe recently replaced our slow-cooker; the old one served for a long and glorious career since the late 60s, having originally been used by Edmund’s mom, who was a cooking teacher, so there was no shame in its finally giving up the ghost.  I bet the new one will not last nearly as long (programmed obsolescence!) but it is larger and more powerful, and it has a timer.  Anyhow, Edmund inaugurated it with a very nice spaghetti sauce before Thanksgiving, and now it’s my turn.

I’d been itching to try this slow-cooker Texas pulled pork recipe from Allrecipes.com; I’d browsed several variants, and this was the one that most appealed to me.  However, I noticed a few caveats.  First, the big mystery ingredient: like most pulled pork recipes, it calls for a generous helping of barbecue sauce.  That seems a bit vague to me, given the huge difference from one sauce to the next.  I like to make my own condiments, and I was reluctant to default to commercial salt-and-corn-syrup-based sauce.

Second, I always like to check the reviews and notes from other cooks and I noted that several reviewers were unhappy with the abundant quantity of liquid produced and the level of sweetness, saltiness, spiciness, or acidity.  It seemed clear that I would have to adjust the taste to suit our preferences, and probably reduce the sauce for serving. Continue reading “Slow Cooker Pulled Pork”

Holiday meat pie: Tourtière

If you want to cut to the chase: here’s the recipe!

There’s a traditional winter dish, and especially holiday dish, that causes a bit of confusion and argument in Quebec where I come from: a meat pie called the tourtière.  The first confusion is the number of regional variants (kind of like jambalaya in Louisiana): Quebec is large although the population is small, and back before cars and paved roads and planes, a lot of regional subcultures developed so even cooking can differ a lot from one place to another.  (Continued after the cut.)

Continue reading “Holiday meat pie: Tourtière”