Shrimp Salad (to impress all your friends)

My new year’s resolution is to blog more here – and I have a lot of pics for the 2014 year in review coming up. In the meantime:

Shrimp Salad

Ingredients:

  • One bag of frozen pre-cooked shrimp (find the kind with shells and tails removed; it’s so much easier)
  • Half a medium-sized onion (white or red)
  • 3 celery stalks (washed etc)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Dill (dried or fresh)
  • Granulated garlic
  • Red chili flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon

Steps

  1. To thaw the shrimp in a food-safe and efficient manner, empty the frozen shrimps into a bowl in the sink and run cold tap water over the shrimps until thawed. Drain the shrimp well.
  2. Finely dice the onion and celery.
  3. Chop the shrimp as fine as you want it – it’s nice to have a bit of variety in the shrimp.
  4. Combine in a bowl with two tablespoons of mayonnaise. (You may want to add more later but start small)
  5. Add 1 teaspoon dill, 1/2 teaspoon garlic (or less depending on your crowd), 1 teaspoon chili flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Stir to combine, then put in the fridge for a few hours.
  7. Just before serving, squeeze over the salad the juice of 1/4 lemon (or more) and add more salt to taste.
  8. Serve on crackers.

The Best French Onion Soup

I was going to make a recipe my mother had, but then today I realized that I didn’t actually have the recipe so I winged it. And oh my, did the fates smile on me today.

The bulk of the work here is done in the oven, so yay!

Soup

Ingredients

  • Butter
  • 3 medium-to-large yellow onions
  • Fresh thyme (leaves from about 10 stalks)
  • 1 cup of cooking sherry
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
  • 1 l beef stock (no salt added)
  • 1 l beef stock (regular)
  • Ground salt and pepper to taste

Total cooking time – 5 hours, but most of it is in the oven.

Preheat your oven to 350F

Peel and slice your onions and place them into oven-safe pot. On top of the raw onions, place four slices/pats of butter. Do not be stingy with the butter.

Place the cover on your pot and put it in the oven. Leave it alone for one hour.

Remove the pot from the oven, and set aside the lid. The onions by this point should be starting to sweat and go limp. Stir, cover, and put back in the oven.

Over the next two hours, remove the pot from the oven every 30 minutes, and stir. When you get close to that third hour, your onions should be browning and caramelizing nicely.

When your onions are caramelized enough, move the pot to the stovetop, and turn your burner on medium-high.

Put the thyme into the onions, and stir. Remember that you only want the leaves from the thyme stalks, not the stalks themselves. What you’re doing now is waking up the aromatics in the thyme.

Now it is time to deglaze your pan. Slowly pour half the cooking sherry into the pan, and stir to scrape the lovely caramelized bits off the pan. Add the rest of the sherry, and then the crushed garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until the pot is bubbling (a few minutes at most).

(If you don’t have any cooking sherry on hand, you can use dry white wine. If you are using wine, you will need to add more salt)

Now it is time to add the beef stock.

(As an aside, I used one litre of unsalted beef stock and one litre of salted as cooking sherry has quite a lot of salt in it. You will be able to add more salt at the end for taste.)

Stir well, turning the burner to high. Bring the soup to a boil, then turn down to low/medium low. You’re going to want to cook the soup down for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally.

After about an hour, you can start tasting it to figure out how much salt and pepper you want to add.

When it’s time to serve, measure out into bowls and add in the cheesy toasts.

Cheesy Toasts

Ingredients:

For each bowl, one slice of sourdough bread
Grated cheese (gruyere if you have it, or whatever you do have)
Granulated garlic (optional)

First off, toast the bread in the toaster until it’s nicely golden (not browned)

Turn on your oven’s broiler

On a cookie sheet, lay the bread flat, then cover with a healthy amount of grated cheese, and if you’re using it, a dash of granulated garlic.

(Most recipes call for gruyere cheese, but if you don’t have any in stock you can use another cheese like cheddar – gruyere can be expensive).

Broil the toasts, keeping a close eye on them. They are done when the cheese has melted and is just starting to turn golden-brown on the edges.

Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Put the cheesy toasts on a cutting board and cut them into squares. This will save you from the usual problem with French Onion soup, which is making a mess of things when you can’t cut up your cheesy bread with a spoon.

Carefully slide each toast directly into the bowls (cheese side up, obv).

Time to eat. Be careful do you don’t burn your mouth with the deliciousness.

World’s best Alfredo sauce

I had a dinner party yesterday and made my mother’s very best ever Alfredo sauce. It is incredibly good and very easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 1 l whipping cream (33%mf)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Half a block of cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated/flaked parmesan
  • A dash of freshly ground pepper
  • A shake  Hot paprika (like 1/16 tsp)
  • Salt (to taste)

Cooking time: 90 minutes or more.

Steps

  1. Add the whipping cream to a saucepan  and turn  the burner on to low.
  2. Crush the garlic clove into the cream and give it a stir.
  3. Cook the whipping cream on low for about an hour, until the cream has reduced to about 3/4s.
  4. Add the cream cheese, the parmesan,  pepper and paprika. Stir.
  5. Keep stirring and cooking on low to medium-low for a while longer, half an hour if you have it.
  6. Add salt and more pepper to taste.
  7. Serve over freshly made pasta.

Baked Egg Cups

A fun breakfast idea.

Ingredients:

  • Whole egg (1 per cup)
  • Thin sliced ham or cooked bacon
  • Cheese (I used old cheddar)
  • Chipotle hot sauce

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Put two slices of ham into personal ramekins in a “cup” shape (ie line the cup with ham). If using bacon, either shape the bacon to the cup if it’s not too cripsy; otherwise break the bacon up and line the ramekin
  3. Crack one whole egg into the ramekin on top of the ham.
  4. Add a couple of dashes of chipotle hot sauce on top of the egg.
  5. (Note that there is no added salt in this recipe – if you’re using ham or bacon, there is already a lot of salt in this dish, and the egg doesn’t need additional seasoning) (well, maybe a little pepper)
  6. Add a few slices of cheese on top of the egg, just to cover the top of the egg.
  7. Bake the ramekins for 16-18 minutes. The goal here is to have the egg white set while the yolk is still a bit running.
  8. Remove from the oven, and eat.

 

 

Prawns with Spinach

A delicious recipe modified from one in  Indian Cooking for Family and Friends.

Ingredients

Vegetable oil or some other neutral oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 tbs tomato paste
1 pound raw prawns, shells removed and well rinsed
Salt to taste
Two large handfuls fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 heaping tsp garam masala
2 tbs cream

Steps

Heat two glugs of oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and bay leaf; stir and cook until the seeds start to crackle. Add the chopped onion and cook for around 10 minutes.

Add the ginger and garlic; cook for another 2 minutes. Add the turmeric and chili powder, stir, then add the tomato paste. You may need to add some water to allow this mixture to cook for a bit (you will want to cook the tomato paste until it has mellowed).

At this point, add a bit of salt to taste. Don’t make it too salty – the garma masala will add much flavour in just a little bit, and you can always add more salt at the end.

Now add the prawns. Stir them in and keep stirring on-and-off for approximately 5 minutes. Add the garam masala.

Turn down to medium heat. Add in the spinach, stir to coat with the mixture, and cover to let the dish steam.

Uncover, add the cream, and stir to incorporate. At this point you can either turn off the heat, or if your dish is a little too wet, cook out a bit longer. Be sure you don’t over-cook the prawns.

This can be served with rice, although I ended up accompanying it with a rustic sourdough toast.

Mmm salt

A post about seasoning salts

When I was a kid, the only kind of seasoning salt in existence was Lawrey’s. What can I say? It was Alberta in the 80s.

what it says on the label

 

Nowadays, with Vancouver being a culinary hot-spot or something, we luckily have access to more than the one seasoning salt.

Tonight’s dinner was testament to this sodium-bomb bounty: I used two kinds of seasoning salts to make steak, yams, and kale into a wowza of a meal.

Let’s break that down a little:

For the steak, I bought what was probably a too-tough cut of beef and, after pounding the crap out of it with the back of a butcher knife, seasoned it liberally with Montreal Steak Spice, so:

Of course, it may say “spice” on the label but the first ingredient is chunky rock salt. Delish. Also works well on mushrooms. For added yum, use a bit of hot water to deglaze the pan and pour the resultant au jus over the steak while it sits. Mega yum.

(The yams were baked and seasoned with regular salt; nothing innovative to write home about).

The kale was a bit of a strange mash-up – sauteed with a bit of crushed garlic and Haida Gwaii Salt from Sea to Sky Seasonings (they’re at the Edible BC booth on Granville Island). The lobster flavour of the salt highlighted the flavour of the kale.

Some trivia:

 

Balsamic Hummus

Once again, no playbook.

Most hummus is flavoured with tahini (ground sesame seeds) and lemon juice. I had no tahini and since the bottle of white balsamic vinegar was already open, I thought what’s wrong with swapping our acids? and went with it.

Ingredients

Steps

  1. Set up blender
  2. Layer in: Chickpeas, two glugs olive oil, one glug balsamic vinegar.
  3. Sprinkle on top: A general helping of ground cumin and a dash of chili flakes (depending on how hot you want this sucker). Give it a dash of garlic. If you love garlic, give it another dash.
  4. Put cover on blender and pulse a few times to get things started. You may find that the blender has a hard time of things once the base layer is blended. This is normal. If you want a calorific dish, pour in a bit more oil to get things moving. If you’re the rest of us, add water, a bit at a time, to give the blender enough to… um, blend.
  5. As you’re approaching doneness, turn off the blender and taste your dip. Add salt to taste
  6. Blend more and more until the dip is sufficiently creamy.
  7. Serve with your favourite dip delivery system. I prefer corn chips myself.

You’ll find that the balsamic vinegar gives the dip a slightly sweet taste. I think it’s delicious, and I will make this again.

 

Garam Masala

My garam masala recipe:

  • 1/2 cup cumin seeds
  • 1/3 cup whole black peppercorns
  • 1/3 cup green cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 4 cinnamon sticks, in pieces
  • 10 bay leaves
  • 1/2 nutmeg, optional

Dry-roast the cumin seeds until they begin to smoke. Cool, and then toss all the ingredients into a coffee grinder and hit frappe until all the lumps are gone. You can grind the spices in batches, then combine all in a jar and shake shake.

PS: The most important thing in this recipe is roasting the cumin seeds.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

My parents went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza on Friday, and afterwards they came to my house for dinner (my first dinner party!) Only we didn’t have anything to eat, so we swung through Whole Paycheque Foods and came back to my place to make dinner.

Did I mention my mother is a world-class chef?

So anyway, we had a lovely dinner: some sautéed red chard, green olive bread from Terra Breads with a lovely Quebec brie cheese, chicken sausages (which, unfortunately, were the least impressive part of the meal), cobbed corn, and an heirloom tomato salad.

Which was the most delish thing ever.

Which means it’s recipe time!

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes (or other flavourful tomatoes)
  • Half a red onion, diced
  • 300 g or so of feta cheese (goat or cow milk, whatever you like), cut into chunks
  • ~ one cup of assorted olives (kalamta, sicilian… again, whatever you like)
  • handful of fresh basil leaves, ripped up
  • a few shakes of white balsamic vinegar
  • two tablespoons of olive oil (virgin)
  • pinch dried thyme
  • dashes of salt n peppa

Directions

  • Combine.
  • Shake.
  • Let sit in fridge for 30 min.
  • Enjoy!

(what, you though this was complicated?)