September 6, 2013

Baby Octopus & Giant Shrimp Stew

Baby Octopus & Giant Shrimp Stew
Time: Approximately 1 1/2 hours
Effort: Easy
Serves: 2

Ingredients
6-8 baby octopus, sacs cleaned out and split. Cut tentacle section in half
6-8 giant shrimp - raw, peeled & deveined
1 banana shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium ripe tomato, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 small can of tomato paste (about 2 tbsp.)
3 tbsp. olive oil
Water to boil the octopus & water for the sauce
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tbsp. chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh curly parsley
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste.

Place octopus in a medium saucepan, add water just enough to cover and add the vinegar. Bring to a rolling boil, then simmer for approximately 45 minutes until tender. Drain off the water. 
Meanwhile, in another medium saucepan or skillet with tall sides, saute the shallot until transparent. Add the garlic, chopped tomato and celery and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and a little water - not too much because you don't want a watery sauce. Blend well, reduce heat, add salt and pepper, cover and simmer on low for 5-10 minutes until the celery is cooked but still a bit crunchy. Add the shrimp and the octopus and simmer covered for another 2-3 minutes or until the shrimp have turned pink. Be careful not to overcook ! Blend in the parsley and cilantro and serve. 
Shown here served on a bed of mixed rice (wild & long-grain white). 


Hummus (plain and easy)

Hummus (plain and easy)
Time: 10 minutes or less
Effort: Easy
Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients
1 large can of chick peas, strained, keeping the liquid
2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt to taste
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Method
Place the strained chick peas in a food processor and blend on high until crushed. Turn off, scrape the sides and add a little of the strained liquid, a little lemon juice and olive oil and blend on high again until pureed. While blending, add salt, garlic powder and a little more olive oil and lemon juice. Turn off, scrape sides and add salt to taste. Blend again on high until it turns into a lump-free puree. Turn off and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. 
Serve immediately or place in an air tight glass jar and refrigerate.
Keeps for approximately 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Note: Most Hummus recipes contain Tahini - which is made from sesame seeds. I omitted it this time and it's just as tasty and delicious !

Decadent Burgers

Decadent Burgers
Time: 45 minutes (approx.)
Effort: Easy but there are a few steps
Serves: 2

Ingredients
1 lb lean ground beef/veal/pork (or just one of the three if you prefer)
Grilling spices (such as black pepper, cumin, mustard seed or any of your favourite blend)
Salt & Pepper
Worcestershire sauce
2 Kaiser buns or large, firm hamburger buns
4 tbsp. good quality or home made mayonnaise
1 roasted red pepper (bottled in water) finely chopped or 2 tbsp. roasted red pepper sauce, such as "Ajvar sauce" *
1 medium white onion, peeled & thickly sliced
1 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise
1 medium, ripe tomato thickly sliced
4 rashers of pre-cooked bacon**
2 slices of Portuguese "Queijo da Serra" *** or your favorite goat cheese (I don't recommend the creamy kind)
Canola oil for drizzling

Method
Divide ground meat into 2 equal portions and shape into hamburger patties. Lay on a plate and sprinkle generously with grilling spices, salt, pepper and a drizzle of Worcestershire sauce and some oil. Set aside.
On a large plate place the slices of onion, tomato and zucchini. Drizzle with a little salt, pepper and oil. Set aside.
In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise and the red peppers. Set aside.
Turn BBQ on high and heat until very hot. On one side of the grill, place the vegetables, except the tomato, and on the other the hamburgers. Grill for approximately 5 minutes and flip, grilling for another 5 minutes and flip again until meat is cooked to your liking and the vegetables are well browned. Add the tomatoes to the grill, meanwhile place the bacon, followed by the cheese on each burger. Place the buns face down on the grill and close the cover. Grill for about 2-3 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

To serve: 
Spread a generous amount of red pepper mayo on the bottom of each bun, top with the burger followed by the vegetables in any order. Spread a little more of the red pepper mayo on the top bun and place on top of the burger. Ready to eat ! Enjoy !!!

*Ajvar sauce is available in most European grocery stores or even Loblaws, IGA, Metro (Canada)
**I usually make batches of pre-cooked bacon (in the microwave) and keep them in ziploc bags in the fridge
***Portuguese "Queijo da Serra" is made from goat's milk: a hard rind on the outside and soft in the middle. 

June 29, 2013

Lemon-Rosemary Chicken


Time: 45 minutes
Effort: Easy
Serves: 2

Ingredients
4 chicken thighs, skin on 
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. neutral oil (such as Canola)
Rind and juice from 1 lemon
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
A little water if necessary
Salt and pepper to taste
2 rosemary stalks for garnish
Sauteed  oyster mushrooms for garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a medium skillet until hot. Add shallots, reduce heat and saute until transparent. Add chicken thighs, increase heat and brown quickly on all sides. Reduce heat to medium, add the garlic, rosemary, lemon rind and juice and combine well. Spoon sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with a little salt and a generous amount of ground pepper. Cover and let simmer, turning the chicken from time to time, for about 30 minutes. At this point, check the chicken for doneness - it should be almost falling off the bone. Adjust seasoning to your liking and add a little bit of water to increase the amount of sauce, if you wish. Simmer covered for another 5-10 minutes.

Shown here: served with sauteed oyster mushrooms on top, and parsley-buttered sun dried tomato spaghettini with freshly grated parmesan.

June 26, 2013

Sun Dried Tomato & Cheese Bread

Sun Dried Tomato & Cheese Bread
Time: 2-4 hours (Approx.)
Effort: Medium
Makes 1 10" round loaf (approx.)

Ingredients
2 cups unbleached white bread flour, or regular white flour, plus extra.
1 tsp. active dry yeast
6-8 oz. warm water
2 tbsp. olive oil
Olive oil for brushing
3/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes 
1/2 to 1 cup shredded sharp cheese (such as cheddar or gruyere, parmesan etc.)
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. coarse sea salt for the top
Corn meal for sprinkling

Mix the yeast with 1/4 cup warm water (100-105oF), cover with plastic wrap and let froth - about 5 minutes.  Fill a measuring cup with 2 cups flour, add the fine sea salt and mix with a fork.

Pour 1/2 cup warm water along with the salt, tomatoes, olive oil and cheese into a food processor (or better still, in a stand mixer with dough paddle), and mix. Add one cup of flour and pulse until well blended. Add the yeast mixture and the rest of the flour and pulse until it forms a ball of dough without sticking to the sides. 

On a lightly floured board, knead the dough for about 5 minutes, then shape into a ball, pinching the bottom so that the creases are sealed.
Brush a large bowl with a little olive oil and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise, in a warm location, for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Once doubled, remove the plastic wrap and punch a finger into the dough - it should be slow to rise - then it's ready. Place again on a lightly floured board, and knead again for about 2-3 minutes. Shape it again into a ball or oval. 

Heat oven to 450oF.
Sprinkle a little corn meal at the bottom of a dutch oven (such as Le Creuset) and place the dough in it. Cover, and let rest for about 30 minutes until doubled again. Spray with olive oil & make slits over the top with a sharp knife, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and bake for 30 - 40 minutes. Take the cover off, and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes - carefully watch it so that it doesn't burn ! Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. (If you want the crust to be very crispy, you may return the bread to the oven on it's own for about 5 minutes).

Delicious as it is, or served with a dipping sauce of olive oil and balsamic vinegar !

June 21, 2013

Tomato & Cilantro Salad

Tomato & Cilantro Salad
Time: prep. 10 minutes - standing time 10 minutes
Effort: Easy
Serves: 2-4

Ingredients
2 medium, ripe tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 tbsp. chopped shallots (or onion or spring onions)
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine the cilantro, shallots, vinegar, oil and salt & pepper. Add the tomatoes and mix well so that the juice and seeds from the tomato become part of the sauce. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving so that the flavours have a chance to blend together.