Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Colcannon: vegetarian, gluten-free, and utterly divine!

This is, I believe, a primarily Irish dish, traditionally made with leftover potatoes and cabbage. Since my husband detests cabbage, we seldom have any left over (as I seldom cook it), but I have come up with some variation on the original which, amazingly, my cabbage-hating husband actually enjoys!

There are a lot of variations you can try, which are listed at the end of the recipe. What is important to remember, however, is that you must prepare this with previously cooked ingredients (except as specifically noted), and those ingredients should not have been fried.

This is especially good served with roast pork or grilled meat.

This is not only a vegetarian recipe (vegan if you don’t use butter), it is gluten-free as well. And it tastes really, really good!

2 cups boiled, mashed or steamed potatoes (unmashed potatoes should be cut into chunks)
2 cups cooked cabbage, cut into spoon-sized chunks
¼ cup fresh butter (substitute margarine for vegetarian)
¼ cup olive oil
1 large fresh onion, roughly chopped
2-4 cloves roasted garlic (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat butter and oil in pot. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion begins to soften. Add potatoes and cabbage and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is heated through. Add salt and pepper, reduce heat, cover, and allow to simmer for 10 minutes or more.

1) Use kale instead of cabbage
2) Use leftover Brussels sprouts, cut in half, in place of cabbage (my favourite...see photo above)
3) Use unpeeled (but cooked) baby potatoes (my favourite...see photo above)
4) Add cooked turnips, kohlrabi, and/or parsnips to cabbage
5) Sauté ½ cup sliced mushrooms with onions
6) Use red cabbage for a different look
7) Use more onion…it makes the dish sweeter

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Marvelous Mushrooms!

I just love mushrooms! And while I love the exotics and the wild ones, give me a succulent, meaty Portobello or a chubby little button mushroom for my skillet and I’m a happy camper!

There are many ways to use mushrooms, but I am going to address the two ways they are seen most often in my kitchen: sautéed with herbs as an accompaniment for steak or delicately sautéed in butter for addition to other dishes…like a cheese and mushroom omelette or savoury rice.

Here are a few mushroom tips:

1) If you have had some mushrooms hiding out in the back of the fridge and they’ve become dry and leathery, don’t toss them out! Inspect them and, if there is no fuzzy green stuff or slippery slime growing on them, they are still edible. Just plop them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and they will reconstitute. Drain on a paper towel and they are ready to use.

2) With the exception of reconstituting dried mushrooms, it is best to keep your fungi away from water. But mushrooms often come to the kitchen with bits of blackish growing medium clinging to them and it needs to be removed. There are a multitude of little brushes and tools designed for this purpose, but I find the corner of a muslin dish towel, applied with my index finger in a gentle brushing motion, works just fine!

3) Purchase mushrooms only from reputable sources. If you are buying exotics and are not familiar with the mushroom you are buying, you can look it up here to make sure you are not preparing a poisonous variety.

4) Slice mushrooms with the cap down on the cutting board, otherwise you can break the mushroom. Use a very sharp knife (I use ceramic) or a piano-wire egg slicer…those make perfectly even-sized slices but only work with smaller mushrooms.

Any way you slice them, mushrooms are delicious and make a wonderful addition to virtually any meal!

Sautéed Portobello Mushrooms (to accompany meat)
4 large Portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced ¼ inch thick
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter (not margarine)
½ cup cleaned and thinly sliced shallots or spring onions
2 to 4 cloves roasted garlic
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Sprinkle dried Fines Herbes
½ cup Marsala
Sea salt to taste

Heat butter and oil together in broad, shallow sauté pan or skillet. Wait until oil is hot to add mushrooms…adding too early will cause mushrooms to absorb oil and become greasy.

Add mushrooms and stir gently, making sure all cut sides are coated with hot oil. Add garlic, shallots, and Fines Herbes. Cook until mushrooms begin to shrink and shallots soften. Add Marsala, then Worcestershire sauce, increase flame and cook off the Marsala, stirring constantly. Cut surfaces should take on a golden hue about the time they are ready to be removed from stove.

Add salt and pile on top of a rare chunk of filet.

Sautéed Light Mushrooms (to add to a savoury dish such as an omelette or rice)
1 cup sliced button or Portobellini mushrooms
2 tbsp butter (not margarine)
⅓ cup thinly sliced spring onions
1 to 2 cloves garlic, put through garlic press
⅓ cup dry white wine
Sprinkle dried Fines Herbes (optional)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Sea salt to taste

Melt butter in shallow skillet but do not allow to brown. Add mushrooms and Fines Herbes and stir gently until all cut surfaces of the mushrooms are coated with butter. Add onion, parsley and garlic and cook until onions begin to soften. Add wine and increase flame to cook off the wine. Salt to taste.

Either recipe can be used to mix with cooked rice for a savoury rice dish. Try adding toasted almonds or pine nuts.

Drain the Sautéed Light Mushrooms with a pierced spoon. Mix with grated Monterey Jack, Colby, or mild cheddar and use as an omelette filling

Mix the Sautéed Light Mushrooms with steamed broccoli for a new side dish.

Spread either recipe over toasted ciabatta and add cheese for a sandwich

Remove stems from a multitude of small, whole mushrooms. Sauté, skewer on toothpicks and serve as hors d'oeuvres.

Photo by bucklava, Flickr

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Washday Supper (New England Boiled Dinner)

I grew up on the West Coast and moved to the Boston area when I was 19. I was adding to my cooking repertoire even then, as my personal cookbook was pretty lean and primarily based on the bland farm cooking of my grandmothers (trust me…you would not want to replicate most of my mother’s attempts at cooking!). One of my in-laws served a Washday supper one evening, explaining that she had been out in the garden all day and this meal needed little attention while she was busy doing something else.

When asked, she explained the name of the dish thus: In the old days, women washed by hand and they heated the water on the stove. Some clothes, primarily whites, were actually boiled in a large tin-lined copper tank called a clothes boiler. This meant the stove, which was usually coal, wood, or oil fired, would be using fuel all day for laundry, and the housewife’s attention would be taken up by the washing.

The Washday Supper was a meal conceived out of necessity: the woman didn’t have the time to actually cook a real meal, and by cooking a chunk of meat all day on the back of the already hot stove, she saved both fuel and time…the vegetables, which cook much more quickly than meat, are added shortly before serving.

This is my variation of the Washday supper, also known as a New England Boiled Dinner, that I learned from a lady who did her laundry in a wringer washer…an all day project…and served this delicious meal weekly.

This is also a frugal meal. A family of four should be able to eat two full dinners from this, and any leftover vegetables and liquid can be put through the blender and used as the basis for Ham and Split Pea Soup…three delicious meals for a family of four out of just one chunk of ham…it doesn’t get much cheaper than this!

Washday Supper (New England Boiled Dinner)

1 picnic ham (smoked shoulder, Boston Butt Ham, or very large smoked hocks)
1 large onion (or 2 small), coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves, bruised or broken
½ tsp peppercorns
1 tsp marjoram, dried
1 tsp thyme, dried
1 cup white wine
6 large carrots, cut into large chunks
4 large potatoes, cut into large chunks
½ bunch of celery, including leaves, cut into 3” to 4” sticks
1 large onion (or 2 small), cut into quarters
6 white turnips, quartered (optional)
1 head of cabbage, quartered through the core, then each quarter halved through the core

Soak ham, fully covered with water, overnight to leach out excess salt. Discard water in the morning. (You may need to put a plate on top of the ham to keep it submerged.)

To have ready to eat by 6 pm, the ham must go on the stove no later than noon. Place ham in deep kettle, add wine and seasoning, then fill to ⅔ full with water. It is OK if the ham is not fully covered, as you will turn it over half way through the cooking process. Add crushed garlic and chopped onion, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to simmer and cook, covered, for 3 hours. Check periodically and add more water if needed.

At 3 hours, turn ham over. Replace lid and continue cooking for at least another 2 hours. Check periodically and add more water if needed. Ham is ready when you can stick a fork into the meat, twist it, and the meat comes away in flakes.

If the pot is not large enough to add the vegetables, you must remove the ham. Put it in a ceramic bowl that you have heated by rinsing in hot water, and cover with a plate. This will allow the meat to rest while keeping it warm. Into the pot liquid add potatoes, carrots, the quartered onion and celery. Boil for 20 minutes, then add turnips and cabbage.

Continue to cook until the vegetables are fork tender, then remove to heated serving dishes.

Serve with mustard for the ham (I like a grainy brown mustard) and butter for the veg. It’s a tasty meal!

Photo by BlueLotus, Flickr

Friday, August 7, 2009

Trout Amandine

Summertime is fishing trip time. When I was growing up, the men in my family were avid fishermen and so, despite my personal dislike of finny fish (love most shellfish), I ate a lot of it as a child. But plain old fried fish gets tiring after a while, especially if you don’t like fish all that much and so, as an adult, I came up a few recipes that made them tasty and appealing, even for an old fish-detester like me.

One of the few fish I actually enjoy is trout. But trout is a delicately-flavoured fish and a heavy hand at the stove can render it greasy and unpalatable. Here is my favourite way to gently prepare it:

Trout Amandine

2 whole fresh* trout, entrails removed, head and tail still on
⅓ cup butter

1 tbsp butter
½ cup sliced almonds

Slowly melt ⅓ cup butter in a skillet. Add the fish and fry gently about 6 minutes on a side. Remove fish when done, drain on paper towels, place on plates.

In a separate skillet, melt 1 tbsp butter and coat pan. Add almonds and cook on a high heat while stirring constantly. The butter will coat the almonds and they will become golden. Remove from heat before the almonds become dark and immediately turn onto paper towels to drain.

Sprinkle almonds over the top of the fish, then dust with a bit of paprika or freshly ground black pepper. Best served with julienned green beans or steamed asparagus (with lemon butter) and a savoury or wild rice dish.

*If you are buying the trout (as opposed to having caught it yourself), look to the eyes to determine freshness: eyes should be clear, not clouded, and if they are sunken, the fish is not fresh enough.

Photo by MrJorgen, Flickr

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fresh Summer Fruit Salad

This is a delicious, refreshing, and versatile fruit salad that works for a light breakfast or lunch, an alfresco dinner side dish, and even as a dessert! It can be served with or without a dressing, spilled over a scoop of ice cream, or used as a topping for sponge or pound cake. The variations and uses are practically endless, and its cool, crisp texture and blend of flavours make it a wonderfully fresh, juicy choice for those hot summer days.

Fresh Summer Fruit Salad
1 fresh ripe pineapple, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 slightly green bananas, sliced
⅓ lemon juice
2 ripe but firm kiwis, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
¾ cup fresh berries (if strawberries, cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 small container lemon yoghurt
Sprig of mint for garnish

Toss bananas in lemon juice, coating all sides well.
Refrigerate berries in a separate container from salad.

Drain all fruits. Combine pineapple, bananas, and kiwi in bowl and toss with yoghurt. Refrigerate for at least ½ hour. Immediately before serving, add berries and toss once again. Garnish and serve.

Use a different flavour of yoghurt for dressing
Sprinkle with sliced almonds
Sprinkle with muesli

Omit yoghurt and serve as below:
--with a scoop of vanilla ice cream
--with a scoop of lemon sorbet
--over a slice of baked cheesecake
--over a slice of poundcake
--over a slice of sponge or angelfood cake
--over a bowl of muesli or bran flakes
--over a bowl of oatmeal
--in a dessert bowl, topped with whipped cream

Photo by Kristie’s NaturePortraits, Flickr

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Philly Cheesesteak

This is one of the most delicious hot sandwiches I have ever eaten. It’s substantial enough to serve for a meal and is especially good served with a robust green salad on the side…although most people seem to prefer it with French fries (which I, personally, find to be a bit of carb/fat/fried food overkill).

To be perfectly clear, I’ve never been to Philadelphia, so I make no claims of authenticity here. I was introduced to the cheese steak sandwich at Sir John’s in Sunnyvale, California and found it fabulous. The internet provided me with some background information and I was delighted to find enough information to replicate and even improve on Sir John’s version of this classic American dish. Here is what I came up with:

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich

2 soft crust French rolls about 6 to 8 inches long (Amoroso rolls if you can get them)
Soft butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 lean rib-eye steaks, half frozen
1 onion, cut into thin slices
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into narrow strips or 1” chunks (optional)
½ cup mushroom slices (optional)
1 tsp garlic oil (optional)
1 cup Provolone cheese, roughly grated (must be Provolone)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Prepare rolls:
Split rolls lengthwise, open and butter. If you have a toaster oven, put rolls in oven, buttered side up, and toast until slightly browned. Then remove rolls to plates. If you don’t have a toaster oven, heat a skillet or flat griddle and place rolls on hot surface, buttered side down, and heat until slightly browned. Then remove rolls to plates.

Prepare filling:
The meat is easiest to slice if it is partially frozen. Using a sharp knife, slice as thin as possible, ¼” or less. Trim off excess fat and discard.

Heat large skillet or griddle and coat with olive oil. Add meat, onions, bell pepper, mushrooms and garlic oil. Keep moving on griddle, so nothing sticks or burns. You can chop the steak strips into smaller pieces if you like, but I keep mine whole. Cook until onions are limp and meat is browned. (If using green peppers and/or mushrooms, make sure they are soft as well). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble sandwich:
Remove filling and divide equally between the rolls. Spread the cheese over the top of the meat and place the top half of the roll on each sandwich. Microwave briefly if necessary to get the cheese to fully melt.

Comments with your additions/variations are welcome!

Photo by bertosolo, Flickr