Thursday, December 20, 2012

Scalloped Potatoes

There are few things I love more than potatoes. I think that's the Albertan in me. I have a special fondness in my little heart for those bad boys.

It's been a long time since I've lived in Calgary, Alberta. In that time I've developed a raging affinity for other foods: pasta, polenta, homemade tomato sauce, chicken liver pate, cheese, wine. In fact, I often think my food-soul is Italian. 

And I have mostly managed to shake a lot of the Albertanisms that make me think of it as "little Texas" - big money, greed, Budweiser, big oil guzzling trucks, saying "get 'er done". Not that there is anything wrong with Alberta or Texas in and of themselves - I'm just a little more West coast than that. Or as the people I work with often refer to me, a little more social-communist. And I'm okay with that. I like shopping vintage thrift and up-cycling material goods. Smart cars are an excellent way to get around the city. And sauntering from one place to another, taking time to smell the flowers and breathe the air and watch the birds and lay on the beach all while being protected by universal medicine is A-okay with me.

But try as I might - potatoes linger both in my mind and judging by the popularity of the Paleo diet, my hips too, apparently.  Smother 'em in cheesy, creamy goodness and I've got the best of all worlds.

So while Italian may be my food-soul, potatoes are my soul-food. They remind me that I stem from a meat and potatoes kinda place. Filled with big trucks, oil money and bad beer. So I hold them dear and close to my heart. That and country music.

Scalloped Potatoes
(printable recipe) - serves 4.


Approx 3 Lb (6 medium sized) Yukon gold Potatoes, sliced very thinly (use a mandolin on thinnest setting).
1 Onion, peeled & sliced very thinly in the same way as the potatoes.
2 Garlic Cloves, minced.
1 or 2 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme.
1 Bay Leaf.
2 1/2 C 2% Milk or Cream.
2 Tbsp Butter.
2 Tbsp Flour.
Pinch of Nutmeg.
1 1/2 C Gruyere Cheese, grated.
1/2 C Parmesan Cheese, grated.
Coarse Sea Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper.

What to Do:

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F & lightly grease a 9 X 9" baking dish.

Heat a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and melt until sizzling - add the flour and stir constantly until fragrant and just starting to change color. Remove from the heat and add the milk, stirring to ensure it doesn't curdle. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, nutmeg and a generous helping of salt and pepper. Place back on heat and stir stir stir until the milk thickens. Remove from the heat and discard what's left of the thyme stem.

Ladle a little of the liquid into the prepared baking dish, followed by closely layered slices of potatoes so they overlap. Top with some of the grated Gruyere and another ladle full of the milk mixture. Repeat until the dish is full with 1/2" of headroom - you should end up with 3 - 4 layers of potatoes, finishing with the Parmesan cheese.

Cover with tin foil and place in the oven to bake for 50 - 60 minutes. Remove the cover and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes or until cheese on top is bubbly and golden.

Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before cutting into. 


What's your background? What foods or lifestyle choices do you hold close to your heart? What makes you who you are? What do you hang on to? What do you let go of? Are there any other country fans in the house?


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Korma Curry Paste

The Lowdown:

Curries are just one of those things that I feel everyone should love. They are full of flavour, extremely versatile, aromatic, and healthy. I'm not claiming to be a curry guru by any means. Maybe just a huge fan that's a borderline stalker. It may be the fact that they are extremely versatile. It may be the aroma that they emit as they slowly simmer. It may be the "set it and forget it" mentality. It may be the inferno from the hot peppers. It may be childhood nostalgia (there were a lot of Indian meals growing up). Or it may even be the ease of making a large batch and freezing it. What ever it is, I adore them.

This variety of curry is a product of Moghul influence in the geographic regions now known as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The word "korma" essentially just means to braise (low and slow baby, low and slow). They are generally milder and sweeter, as opposed to fiery. The addition of nuts and coconut milk make this curry a truly interesting meal.

Curries are often one of those things that annoy me the most in blogging. I absolutely hate it when you click on a blog recipe and one of the ingredients is a packaged curry paste. Using a store bought curry paste in a recipe is like calling a photo of a painting the real deal. Chances are, if you're simply just writing down the instructions from the back of the package it's not worth your time to write (or our time to read). It's rubbish. It makes me so upset that I'm being forced to use British slang. So, if you're stuck in a rut and want a make-ahead meal plan, a homemade curry paste is an excellent way to go.

On a final note, this batch of paste (noted in the photos) is green because I had spinach that was on its last legs. Not wanting to waste it, I ground it into the curry paste. I'm not sure about the legalities of this, but the flavour was excellent.

The Playlist:

3 tbsp Cumin seed, toasted then ground
2 tbsp Turmeric
1 tbsp Coriander seed, ground
1/2 cup Cilantro, loosely chopped
1/4 cup Ginger, pealed & loosely chopped
6 Chili peppers
5 cloves Garlic
1/4 cup Desiccated coconut (dried and flaked)
3 tbsp Garam masala
1/2 cup Cashews, ground
1 cup Vegetable oil (canola)
Pepper, generous amount

The Skinny:

  1. Put the oil, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cilantro, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, garam masala, and pepper into a blender and blend until an oily paste is formed. 
  2. Once a paste consistency is formed slowly add the coconut and cashews. If the blender is labouring too much, you can manually mix these in.
  3. Put 1 cup servings into individual containers and refrigerate for 2-3 days before using. The individual servings that are not used can be frozen (just make sure you don't microwave them to thaw). 
  4. The paste highly concentrated, so I mix 1 cup of the paste with 2-4 cups of broth depending on the desired consistency and what is going into the curry. No oil in the pan is needed, as there is enough in the paste itself.

Stay Rad -h
Featured on: Premeditated Leftovers33 Shades of GreenChef in TrainingFood Renegade

Thursday, December 13, 2012

RPI Eggs: Super Simple Poached Egg Sunday Breakfast

Happy Thursday darlings!

The best part of my day? I logged into Blogger, checked the blog's stats for the day, and opened up my draft for RPI Mission Eggs... I was greeted by this:

Jingle bells, batman smells, Robin laid an egg.
Batmobile lost a wheel and Joker got away.

Oh the joy of sharing a blog with a close friend who you wished lived closer. I've heard this song eight million times and was always kind of annoyed by it. Until now. Now it's the endearing gentle message my dear friend Haydn left me in my draft copy of RPI Eggs - a small but significant message that he hopelessly misses me. I miss you too, Haydn. Stupid, giant, Canadian country.

Something else that is dear to my heart? Eggs. Particularly, super simple Sunday breakfast eggs. When we established eggs as our Rock, Paper, ingredient mission this month, my mind immediately started digging into the various culinary fascinations of eggs - custards, cakes, aioli, souffle, blah blah blah. Ultimately, I chose to showcase the true nature of the protein powerhouse known as the egg. And stayed true to chicken.

Small side note: Duck eggs scare the squeezebox outta me. Much too large. Much. too. large. Pretty much anything that is larger in size than the average/normal freaks me out.

All you need for this recipe: eggs, bread, left over veggies. Maybe a little cheese. Golden. 

Super Simple Poached Egg Breakfast
(printable recipe) - serves 2.


4 Pastured Eggs.
1 Tsp Vinegar.
1 Bunch Kale or Chard.
1/3 C Chicken or Veggie Stock.
2 Pieces Baguette or Sourdough Loaf, cut on an angle.
2 Shavings of Salty Grainy Cheese (ie Grana Padano, Parmesan, Pecorino Romano)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Coarse Sea Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper.

What to Do:

Pre-heat your oven to a high broil. Once hot, place sliced bread on a baking sheet, brushed lightly with olive oil, and slide under heat. Broil until golden. Remove from oven and lay the cheese on warm toast. Set aside.

Turn the oven down to 400 degrees F. Re-heat winter veg in oven until hot. 

Heat 2 Tbsp of oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Once hot, throw in the greens, season well with salt and pepper and stir well to coat. Add the stock and while stirring often, allow the greens to cook through and the stock to evaporate.

To poach eggs: Bring a deep saute pan of salted water to a light boil over medium-high heat. Once the water starts to bubble, add vinegar. Crack eggs into individual bowls and gently slide into the semi-boiling water. Using a slotted spoon, corral the whites around the yolks to help them keep their shape. Cook for about 3-4 minutes or until the egg whites are cooked through and the yolks runny. Remove from water and gently place eggs on top of cheesy toast.

Throw it all on a plate and chow down my friends, chow down.

Yes - eat.

How do your friends let you know they love you? How do you show you love them?


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

RPI: Egg - The Happy John

The Lowdown:

Every cocktail seems to have a story. Perhaps, it put the tale in cocktail. In that case, a storyless beverage would be a... well, let's just leave that up to your imagination. This cocktail is no different. Although it may not have the disputable history of the Old Fashioned, it always makes me laugh when I order it. Perhaps snicker, laugh seems to be a bit too out there.

This story begins when we were young enough to sneak spiced rum into the late night showing of the horror-movie-du-jour. Okay,I'm not going to lie I still think it's fun. Everyone would then get their favourite pop to mix. Simple enough. That is until you order Orange Crush. You then sit down, add the two flavours up in your head, and realize that you may have to endure the grossest drink ever. Wrong! It's actually amazing.

Fast forward two years. We are all sitting at our favourite BBQ joint, when I notice that they have Orange Crush and spiced whiskey. Eureka, an instant classic. Until I was smited by the bartender and my fellow friends that is. Apparently whiskey and orange soda is some form of faux-pas in the realm of beverages. Once again I endured.

Fast forward a couple of months. The setting: the same BBQ joint, rainy night, approximately 7*c, gentle northeasterly breeze, 8:30pm PST. Everyone is sitting at the table with their drink of choice, the Happy John. The components, as you may have guessed, are orange soda and spiced whiskey. But where is the irony you say? It lies in the fact that in my absence the drink was now named after the person whom originally ostracized me for ordering it all those months ago.

Oh the humanity! The humility! Now, locked away in my attic, I have been burning the midnight oil to recreate this untold masterpiece to get my own form of justice; the Happy John v.2.0 (which is essentially a modified Boston Sour). Remove the redneck, add a touch of class, and recreate a classic. And just like that, I get my silent revenge (not to mention a delicious cocktail in front of me and my RPI: Egg post completed).

The Playlist:

The Happy John
2 oz Spiced Whiskey
1/2 - 1 oz Simple syrup (depending how sweet oranges are)
1 Egg white
1/2 Naval orange, juiced

Orange Simple Syrup

3 cups Water
2 Oranges, peels only
5 Allspice berries

The Skinny:

  1. In small pot: combined water, orange peels, and allspice berries. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling reduce the heat to low, uncover, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Strain contents of the pot, keeping only the orange liquid. Using a measuring cup, make a 1:1 ratio of sugar to orange liquid. Put this mixture back into the pot and heat until sugar is fully disolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. In ice-free martini shaker: combined cocktail ingredients and shake vigerously. Strain into an ice filled glass. Garnish as desired.
  4. Enjoy. 

Stay Rad -h
Featured on: Premeditated Leftovers33 Shades of GreenChef in TrainingFood Renegade

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Salads Ain't Just Fo' Summer Yo!

There are plenty of splendid and flavorful ingredients that can be used to make some pretty stellar Winter ones. Who needs mass produced & globally shipped lettuce when you can use locally and organically grown kale? Mmmm-mmmm - Christmas Winter salads are a wee bit of yum, yes?

I know, I know.

I promise that every post I do here up until Christmas will not be Christmas related.

To be fair though, this dish really isn't about Christmas. It's about using your Winter veg up effectively and let's be honest: Sometimes it's friggin difficult to find a fresh way to use those beets. Or leafy greens.

There comes a point, in every CSA participant's box, when we think "for the love of all that is good and holy - if I get one more (insert bastard vegetable here), I'm going to kill myself!". For me, that's usually kohlrabi. For John, it's turnips. Thence this recipe.

The fact that this dish is white, green and red just happens to make it an excellent side to a holiday meal. I promise, it's not Christmas.

Beet Carpaccio & Massaged Kale Winter Salad
(printable recipe) - serves 2.

Ingredients for Salad:

6 Small Red Beets, scrubbed and well dried.
6 Small Golden Beets, scrubbed and well dried.
1 Bunch Kale.
6 Oz Goat Cheese, room temperature.
Handful of Sweet & Spicy Nuts.
Coarse Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper.

Ingredients for Dressing:

1/2 C Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
The Juice of 1 Orange.
1 Tbsp Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar.
Coarse Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper.

What to Do:

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place the golden beets in one roasting pan and the red beets in another. Drizzle both with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Cover and roast in the oven for 40 - 60 minutes, depending on the size and age of the beets. When a fork slides gently into the beet, they're done. Remove from the oven and set aside until you can touch them. Chop off the top, peel the skins off and discard and place beets in the fridge until cool.

Meanwhile: remove the stem/rib of the kale and then chop into thin sliced. Massage - yes, massage - until the kale becomes soft and edible. This can take a while so just plop down in front of the tv if you want and rub baby rub. Set aside.

Make the dressing: Dump all the ingredients into a mason jar and shake. Set aside.

Once the beets are cool, use your mandolin to slice them on the thinnest setting. Watch your fingers! You can do this with a knife but it will take longer and it will be difficult to be as consistent. Make sure you do all the golden ones before the red or you will discolor the delicate gold beets with purple.

Lay the red beets on a plate, slightly overlapping the edges until the plate is full. Slide gold slices so they lay just slightly under each red beet. 

In a bowl, dress the kale with some of the dressing and the goat cheese. Gently place on top of the beets and finish with some nuts.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.


How do you feel about Winter salads? Have you ever massaged kale? What do you get in your CSA that makes your little heart happy? Angry? Confused?


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Hearty Paprika Lamb Stew (Lamb golyas)

The Lowdown:

Yup, it's official. The weather sucks. Really, after hearing about the east coast, I will not complain. On to the next point: the benefits of cold, wet, dreary, sunless, winters. Wow, that's definitely one way to make it seem like there are no benefits. But, as we all know, there are are few. I'm not going to get into the others, because they are not food related (ahem, keeping each other warm at night). Rather, not food related in a PG sense (fondue experiments?) The benefit I am referring to is, none other than, satisfying those cravings for warm, rich, savoury stews and soups. Slow cooked, low heat, well spiced, decadent aromas whafting from the kitchen goodness.

I love having seasons. Right now we are on the verge of crossing over from BBQ season to crock pot season. A true man would probably say that the mighty BBQ supercedes the conventional rules of cooking seasons. Therefore, being a true man, I'm going to say it; "the mighty BBQ supercedes the conventional rules of cooking seasons. Now hear me roar." Now that we've got that out of the way, I also love crock pot season -- and that's no crock. I love sneaking "tasters" throughout the day, knowing full well that it hasn't reached its potential. Enjoying the warth and heartiness it provides, but knowing that it's only going to get better. Or if it tastes horrible, scrap it while nobody's looking and order in pizza. Genius.

The Playlist:

2 lbs Lamb, 1" cubes
4 tbsp Lard (Goose fat or bacon fat will do)
2 tbsp Flour
2 Onions, chopped
4 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Parsnips, chopped
4 Tomatoes, chopped 
2 cups Red Wine
3 cups Beef stock
4 tbsp Smoked paprika
Pepper, a generous amount
2 Bay leaves
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1-2 cup(s) Sour cream
Salt, to taste

The Playlist:

  1. In large heavy pot: heat lard until spattering, then add lamb and brown on each side. While lamb is browning add flour & pepper and mix quickly to ensure no clumps form. Add onions and garlic and cook for 3 minutes.
  2. To pot: remaining ingredients, with the exception of the sour cream. Turn heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 2 - 3 hours.
  3. Remove from heat and add the sour cream. Serve warm. 

Stay Rad -h
Featured on: Premeditated Leftovers33 Shades of GreenChef in TrainingFood Renegade