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Sunday, June 13, 2010

fresh, fast and local(?) on a saturday night

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I'm intrigued by the idea of a 20 minute supper every night....intrigued but not yet convinced.


I'm not saying that you should slave away for 2+ hours just to put a decent meal on the table, but I also have a hard time accepting the value proposition of a recipe that promises dinner in 15-20 minutes, but involves 15 minutes of cooking time. Unless you are a super-star chef with the world's most organized kitchen (and that excludes like 99.9% of us), you probably can't get everything prepped for a recipe in 5 minutes.

That said, when a friend posted this recipe on facebook, I thought I would try it anyway....even though I changed it up a bit (so it took quite a bit longer than 20 minutes), I think it's a good recipe. Plus, I loved the fact that it called for maple syrup, as my uncle just dropped off a big jug of this year's batch. It's deliciously thick and dark and flavourful. So I thought this would be a good way to try out a more savoury use of maple (as opposed to me either drowning my french toast, or just plain eating it out of a bowl, both of which I have been known to do).

Anyway....I figured that with a fairly richly-flavoured meal, it would be best to pair it with a light dessert. And since it's the time of year when we're just starting to see shoots and starts of local produce, I decided to make a clafoutis (it also helps that a friend had me over for dinner earlier in the week and made a delicious blueberry version, which reawakened my love for this ultra-simple dessert). I've made clafoutis before, and I pretty much used the same recipe this time, except I made it with cherries (not local....they weren't the best cherries ever so I thought they might be improved by baking in a vanilla custard pancake). I kept my local strawberries for noshing instead.

I'm going to repost the clafoutis recipe because I think it's totally underrated and super delicious. Plus, I think I've got the baking time mastered now. As much as I LOVE my copy of how to cook everything, I think Mark Bittman brutally underestimates the amount of time it takes to bake.

Maple Roast Chicken and Peppers with Thyme New Potatoes - stolen and lightly adapted from 20 Minute Supper Club

1/3 c maple syrup
3 T cider vinegar
1 t minced garlic
1/4 t sea salt
1/4 t black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
(1/3 c marsala --> it was just sitting around, so I added it in!)

4 boneless chicken breasts (I had three monster-sized ones, so I sliced them to make 6 pieces of chicken)
2 bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb small new potatoes
1 T unsalted butter
2 t fresh thyme (I used dried...I don't think it's worth it to buy fresh...dried thyme is fine)
1 t grainy old-style mustard

1. In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients (and the marsala, if you're using it). Add the chicken and let marinate for a while (I recommend an hour or two, if you have the time).

2. Preheat oven to 425F.
3. Add potatoes to a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender when pierced with a knife (20ish minutes, unless they are really tiny). Drain well and toss with butter, mustard and thyme. Keep warm and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, heat an oven-safe frying pan****(see below for instructions on how not to eff this up with a stainless steel pan). I thought the chicken would benefit from being dredged in seasoned I mixed together about 1/2 c flour, 1 t ground mustard, 1 t garlic salt and pepper. I lifted the chicken pieces out of their marinade, let them drip and then dredged them and plopped them in my hot, oiled pan.


5. Cook until they are a bit brown (3-4 minutes) and then flip. Once you flip, add the maple mixture and peppers. Bring to a boil (it is a chicken marinade after don't want a side of salmonella with your dinner).

6. Pop the skillet into the oven (uncovered). Let bake for about 12-15 minutes.


**** I am the recent, but very proud owner of a very heavy stainless steel pan. We have decided to try to minimize our use of (and exposure to) non-stick cookware (read more here). BUT, the whole reason that non-stick pans have become so popular is that it takes a little bit of know-how to cook with stainless steel. SO....if you're going this route (though I also highly recommend cast iron; it's less touchy, but it is reactive, and that can cause problems if you use a lot of lemons or tomatoes...but I digress)....anyway, if you're going to go this route, this is what you can do to save yourself a lot of scrubbing and frustration:

1. Heat a dry, clean pan over medium heat.
2. After a few minutes (unless you have a gas stove, in which case, check quicker), flick a bit of water at the pan. If it bounces/evaporates immediately, go to step three. If not, wait another minute or two and try again.
3. Add your oil. You have to use a reasonable amount of oil with a stainless spray won't cut it. You need *just* enough to very thinly cover the bottom (about 1.5 T will do it). Let it get hot (the surface will shimmer, and the oil will become very thin, runny).
4. NOW add your food.

If you follow these steps, you shouldn't have any problems. If you skip them and get impatient, your food will stick. And then it will suck to be whoever is on KP.

Cherry Clafoutis - from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

3 cups cherries
3 eggs
1/2 sugar (I use vanilla sugar)
1/3 c flour
3/4 c milk
3/4 c THICK yogourt - I used Phoenicia non-fat. It is deliciously rich and tangy.
pinch sea salt
1 t vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Prep your cherries...basically, you'll need to pop them (hahaha... :p ) with the side of a broad knife. Don't to it too enthusiastically or they will spray everywhere. (note to self: lesson learned). Once you've lightly crushed them, you should easily be able to open them and take the pit out. It will turn your hands and nails a rather objectionable nasty colour. But such is life. I like to toss them in a bit of vanilla sugar, especially as my cherries were not very sweet.

3. In a bowl, whisk the heck out of your three eggs. You want them to be a bit foamy.

4. Add the sugar and whisk some more (again, you want it to be thick and foamy).
5. Add flour. Repeat.
6. Add the milk, yogourt, salt and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
7. Take some butter and grease your pan. Sprinkle the pan with about 1T sugar, toss it around, and dump out the excess.
8. Spread the cherries in the bottom of the pan.

9. Pour the batter over the cherries.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. The edges will be brown and the middle should be *almost* set. Let it sit for a few minutes, and you will have the easiest, most delicious dessert you can make with fruit.


sometimes you just have to go simple

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As always, I am lamenting the long-neglect of this blog....and the longer I don't post, the more I work myself up into thinking that my 'come back' post absolutely must be something of such epically delicious proportions that it will act as a personal catalyst for revolutionizing my approach to blogging.

So...moving right along....that's not going to happen. I don't want to post something so complicated, arduous or impressive that no one will ever come back....I want to share something simple, quick and delicious. Because really, that's what food is all about. Enjoying something that tastes fantastic, but doesn't require endless hours of labour in the kitchen.

I actually thought this dish might be a little humble for posting, but when discussing the subject with hubs, he actually INSISTED that it be shared. Because it's really good.

And the more I thought about it, the more perfect this meal was for posting. It's a great representation of the type of cooking I find myself doing these days....between having a crazy (crazed?) toddler, a commute that sucks way too much of my life (90 minutes each way...ugh), and just not having tons of extra energy, this is the perfect kind of thing to make at the end of the day. And even better, you don't have to feel like a jerk for serving it to your family because it's balanced and healthy.

So without further ado....

Curried couscous with broccoli and feta - stolen and adapted from Cooking Light
serves 5

1 3/4 c water
1 c. whole wheat couscous
2 c. broccoli florets
1/2 c. finely chopped red onion
1/3 c. shredded carrot (I didn't have carrot so I used a combination of peppers and celery....and I used way more than 1/3 c.)
1/4 c. raisins (used a combination of sultana and thompson raisins)
1/4 c. dry-roasted cashews, chopped (I roasted my cashews in a clean frying pan)
2 T white wine vinegar
1.5 T olive oil
1 t sugar
2 t curry powder
2 t grated ginger
pinch salt
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
crumbled feta cheese

1. Boil water in kettle. Put couscous in a glass container. Pour boiling water over couscous, stir and cover. Voila. couscous done.

2. While couscous stands, nuke the broccoli florets for about 90 seconds.

3. Whisk vinegar, oil, sugar, curry powder, ginger and salt together in a small bowl.

4. Combine couscous, broccoli, onion, veggies, chickpeas and dressing.

5. Serve warm, hot or cold and sprinkle with crumbled feta.


And voila. A complete, speedy, yummy vegetarian meal. If you insist on meat, you could add chopped chicken or crab.

As an addendum....remember waaaaaay back when when I stated that I didn't like frozen food? And that I wasn't really eating all of the food I had made in anticipation of Lil Z's arrival....almost two years ago?????

Hubs finally got fed up with me ignoring its existence in our deep freeze and ventured into that frozen tundra of dehydrated and now well-past-its-prime food.

Behold, the haul....

A truly, truly shameful waste of food, I'm horrified to say. :( But at least now I have some room in my freezer! I've discovered my freezer is best filled with staples that can make something yummy, rather than something pre-made that just goes to waste....

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