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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sweet and Savory Popovers: Bacon, Onion & Tomato and Cinnamon-Apple Popover

They might be breakfast, brunch or dessert. They could be eaten alone, or dressed up with all sorts of toppings. Nope, I am not talking about pancakes. I am talking about popovers.

A popover is like a pancake that you bake in the oven. It gets all puffed up and golden brown, and has a soft texture in the middle. You can fill it with all sorts of stuff—sweet or savory.

I love recipes like this because you can really be creative and use whatever you have in your fridge. Also, there is no need to be exact with the fillings. Just add a little bit of this, and a sprinkle of that to create your perfect popover filling.

Today, I made 2 popovers: one sweet with Cinnamon and Apples and one savory with Bacon, Onions, and Tomatoes.

They were so delicious, and I have to say, these might become my new breakfast/brunch/lunch favorites. They have an amazing aroma in the oven and you can just increase the recipe depending on how many people you are feeding, and pop it in the oven. No more standing at the stove flipping pancakes all morning! Sorry pancakes! No hard feelings. I still love you…

Bacon, Onion, and Tomato Popover
Makes 1- 10 inch popover

For the Filling
4 slices Bacon, cut into strips
1/4 Green Onion, sliced
1/4 cup Tomato, diced

For the Batter
1/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup White Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Large Eggs
1/2 cup Milk

Chopped Parsley for Garnish

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

In a 10 inch, oven proof sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until slightly crisp. Add the onions and tomatoes and cook for another minute until tomatoes are warm. In a separate bowl, mix together the flours and salt. Beat in the eggs and milk. Pour this batter over the filling in the sauté pan, and place in the preheated oven for 25 minutes until golden and puffy. Do not open the oven during the baking time or the popover won’t rise!

Garnish with some fresh chopped parsley.

Cinnamon Apple Popover
Makes 1- 10 inch popover

For the Filling
1 tbsp Butter
2 Large Apples, sliced
1 tbsp White Sugar
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

For the Batter
1/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup White Flour
1 tbsp White Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
2 Large Eggs
1/2 cup Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

In a 10 inch, oven proof sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the apples, 1 tbsp sugar, and the cinnamon until the apples start to soften (about 5 minutes). In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, sugar and salt. Beat in the eggs, milk and vanilla. Pour this batter over the apples in the sauté pan, and place in the preheated oven for 25 minutes until golden and puffy. Do not open the oven during the baking time or the popover won’t rise!

Enjoy warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. You could even dollop some whipped cream and sprinkle fresh berries over top.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chinese Steamed Dumplings

There is something simply irresistible about these little parcels. Perhaps because of all the fond memories they bring. When I lived closer to home, I loved going to Dim sum with friends and family. Sharing those tiny plates of assorted goodies, like your own little smorgasbord spinning in the centre of the big round table.

Of course, there are infinite possibilities when it comes to dumplings. First is the preparation method. They can be steamed, deep fried, pan fried, or fried then steam/boiled “potsticker style.” Then you have the wrappers, which can be completely opaque all the way to translucent depending on the mix of flours used. And of course, there is the filling. Oh, the endless combinations! I can’t even begin to list them!

But one thing that these little dumplings have is common is the need for a little patience. They are not hard to make, but you need to make each one individually. You need to be gentle. One rip or tear in the dough could be detrimental to the final product.

So take your time, put on some music, and enjoy your time in the kitchen. It’s worth it!

Chinese Steamed Dumplings
Makes 35-40 Dumplings

For the Wrapper
2 cups Water
4 tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 cups White Flour
1 cup Corn Starch (in USA/Canada) or Corn Flour (in the rest of the world)
1 tsp Salt

For the Filling
1 Egg, beaten
3/4 cup Green Onions, sliced
2 tbsp Water, Room Temp
3 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Fresh Ginger, minced
1 tsp Dried Red Chili Flakes
1 tsp Sesame Oil
1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
600 grams Ground Beef

To make the wrapper, boil the water. Add the oil to the water. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add the water mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing to form a soft dough. Set the dough aside.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except the beef. Add the beef, and using your hands or a fork, mix well so that the flavorings are well distributed throughout the beef.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and shape into a log. Slice the log into 40 rounds. Roll each round into a disc about 10cm in diameter. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the centre of the disc, and fold one side over the make a half circle. Pinch the edges closed. Trim the edges if desired. Repeat until all the dumplings are complete. At this point you can freeze the dumplings.

To cook the fresh dumplings, place on a piece of parchment paper in a steamer basket and steam for 12-14 minutes.

To cook the frozen dumplings, place on a piece of parchment paper in a steamer basket and steam for about 18-20 minutes.

Serve with soy sauce for dipping.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chicken Shawarma-- A taste of the Middle East

Living in the Middle East, I would be crazy if I didn’t love Shawarma. After all, it is one of the ultimate Middle Eastern street foods. Like hot dogs in North America. They are always around when you need a snack!

So, what is a shawarma? It is basically a wrap of shaved meat and condiments. The meat, which could be chicken, lamb, beef or a mix, is marinated and then stacked onto a huge skewer. This skewer is placed on a very large, vertical rotating spit which cooks the meat using a huge gas element on one side. The shawarma man shaves thin layers of meat off the spit as it cooks, and builds them into a moist and flavorful wrap. The “wrapper” is Arabic Bread, which is similar to pita bread, except a little thinner and chewier (in a good way). He tops this with a garlic tahina sauce, some pickles, and perhaps a few other condiments.

I never believed I could recreate this experience at home. After all, I am not in the business of setting up vertical spits in my living room and tending to large rotating pieces of meat. And, to be honest, you really can’t recreate the shawarma experience—the big skewer of meat, the thin shavings, the feeling you get standing on the street and taking your first bite. But what you can do is recreate the flavors and create a similar end product. I will tell you that right now that it is not the same. But it tastes wonderful and it incorporates all the flavors of the street shawarma in the comfort of your own home. Then, just close your eyes, and imagine that you are standing in the bustling market streets of the Middle East….

Just a couple of notes before we get started… in this recipe, I am using a Shawarma spice mix. Because it is already salted, I do not add any additional salt anywhere in this recipe. If you can’t find Shawarma spice, don’t worry! You can make your own. Just mix together equal quantities of Allspice, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Fenugreek. Ginger. Then add a little salt.

The second ingredient I use in this recipe that you may not know of is Sumac. Sumac is a deep reddish purple spice made from the ground berries of a wild bush called Rhus. It has a nice lemony taste and in the Middle East, they use it to add flavor and as a garnish. In this recipe, we use it mainly as a garnish, so if you can’t get it, you can skip it.

Chicken Shawarma
Makes 4 shawarma wraps

For the Chicken

400 grams Chicken Breast, sliced thinly
For the Marinade
1/2 cup Plain Yogurt
2 tbsp White Vinegar
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
Juice of half a lemon
3 tbsp Shawarma Spice

For the Sauce
1/2 cup Tahina (Sesame Paste)
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
Juice of 1 Lemon
¼ cup Plain Yogurt

For the Wraps
4 Pita Breads
White Onions, thinly sliced
Cucumbers, sliced
Tomatoes, sliced
Fresh Parsley, chopped
Red Bell Peppers, sliced

In a bowl or resealable plastic bag, combine all ingredients for marinade. Add chicken breast and mix well. Cover and let marinate in fridge for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

In a pan over medium high heat, cook all the chicken and marinade for about 5-8 minutes, until cooked through. Be careful not to overcook as you do not want the chicken dry.

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sauce.

If you are serving this as a “wrap your own” then prepare all condiments on a plate. You can choose to either sprinkle the vegetables with sumac, or place it in a bowl and let people sprinkle their own. It also adds a nice conversation piece to the table, since most people don’t know what it is.

To wrap the shawarmas, place some chicken in the bread. Add some of the condiments, then drizzle with the tahina sauce. Add a sprinkle of sumac, then wrap. You can wrap each halfway up with parchment paper so they stay together.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Awesome Rosemary Chicken Bake

This chunky, heart-warming chicken bake is just what the doctor ordered!

The great thing about this dish, is that everything is rustically cut. No perfection needed here… just big chunks around 1 inch in size (give or take a little). Also, I don’t peel any of the vegetables (except the garlic and onions of course). The others I just wash and scrub really well then cut up. The peels give a nice rustic look, they are full of vitamins, and they just taste good! But of course, this is a personal preference so if you want to peel your veg, I am certainly not stopping you!

So, give it a try. After all, we all need new chicken recipes!

Awesome Rosemary Chicken Bake
Serves 2

2 Whole Chicken Legs, cut into pieces (2 drums and 2 thighs)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, roughly chopped
2 Large Onions, cut into large chunks
2 Carrots, cut into chunks
2 Courgettes, cut into chunks
1 Small Aubergine, cut into chunks
3 or 4 Stalks of Rosemary, destemmed and roughly chopped
1 Large Tomato, cut into a chunks
2 Large Potatoes, cooked and cut into large chunks
Olive Oil for drizzling
Salt and Pepper

Boil the whole potatoes until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and cut into large chunks.

Preheat the oven to
180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Farenheit).

Season the chicken pieces on all sides with salt and pepper.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken pieces skin side down. Do not move them for 2-3 minutes. You want the chicken to sear a nice brown color, and if you move the chicken too early, the skin will stick to the pan. Flip over and brown the other side. Then, to the pan, add the garlic, onions, carrots, courgettes, aubergine and rosemary. Cook for about 5 minutes until all the vegetables get a little color.

Turn the whole pan of chicken and vegetables onto a lined baking tray. Add the chunks of potatoes and the tomato. Drizzle with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 45 minutes, tossing the vegetables and chicken about halfway through to ensure all are evenly cooked and coated with the chicken juices.

To dress up this dish for service, you could serve on a platter lined with fresh rosemary.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Thai Style Chicken Coconut Soup

It's time for more soup!!
As you have seen from my previous soup posts, I love soups. Especially smooth and creamy ones. Now, that doesn’t mean I add full cream to every soup and it also doesn’t mean the soup has to be heavy. It just means that I enjoy soups with a creamy texture.

So how do I get that velvety texture without cream? One way is by pureeing, like I did with my Lentil Soup, Ginger Infused Carrot Soup, and my Potato & Leek Soup. Another way is by adding coconut milk as I do in this soup. This creates a creamy texture but maintains a light, coconut flavored broth. It is absolutely wonderful.

One thing I particularly love about this soup is the slight heat from the chili. It is not spicy, mouth burning hot, but it is warming, and adds a whole other dimension to this soup.

On a cold winter’s night, this is definitely a soup that can sooth your soul!

Thai Style Chicken Coconut Soup
Makes 4 servings

1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 Large Onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Green Chili, deseeded and finely chopped1 Chicken Breast (200 grams), cut into chunks
1 1/2 liters Chicken Broth
1 can Coconut Milk
½ cup Uncooked Brown Rice
1 cup Frozen Peas
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a pan over medium high heat, add the oil, garlic, onion and chili and cook for just a couple of minutes until the onions start to become translucent. Add the chicken breast and cook until colored on all sides. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, and rice. Bring up to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until rice is cooked. Stir in the peas and season with salt and pepper.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chili con Carne: One Recipe, Endless Possibilities

I love chili. It’s hearty and comforting, and the spice provides that much needed warmth. Today we are making chili that you can use for many, many future meals. You can easily make a big batch and separate it into smaller portions for freezing. Because you can serve it so many ways, it never feels like the same boring meal over and over.

There are lots of ways to eat chili. Just by itself, with some condiments on top (crème fraiche or sour cream, chives, grated cheese), over rice, with crispy corn chips, layered in pasta (like lasagna)… the possibilities are endless!

Today, we are making chili and serving it up with nachos. If you want to make it healthier, you can use ground chicken instead, but I really prefer the taste and weight of beef.

Chili con Carne
Makes about 3 cups

1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Onion, diced
1 Chili, red or green, very finely chopped (do not omit this chili. If you don’t want your chili too spicy, reduce the chili powder)
250 grams Lean Ground Beef
1 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Bay Leaf
¼ cup Cilantro, chopped
3 tbsp Tomato Paste
500 ml Stock (beef is best, but any will do)
1 can Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
Fresh Ground Black Pepper

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, add oil, garlic, onions, and chili and cook until then start to soften (about 2 minutes). Add the ground beef, breaking it up with your hands or a spatula. Add the chili, cumin, cinnamon, and bay leaf and cook the mixture until the meat is brown (about 5 minutes). Stir in the cilantro and tomato paste. Then add the stock, bring up to a boil, and reduce to simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir in the kidney beans. Season to taste.

For the Nachos

I made them healthy using Pita Chips but you could use any tortilla chips you like. I topped then with:
Pitted Black Olives
Diced Tomatoes
Sliced Green onions
Grated Cheddar Cheese
Grated Mozzarella Cheese
Finely minced Green Chilies

Even distribution of toppings is key. I prefer to lay my chips in basically one layer for this reason.

Serve with salsa, guacamole, sour cream and a side of chili.

You could put the chili on top after cooking the nachos, but I find it makes them a little too soggy for my liking. I prefer to serve it in a bowl on the side. Also, it ensures that each bite has its fair share of chili.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Spaghetti with Bleu Cheese, Tomato, and Onion

Bleu Cheese. Some people love it, some people hate it. I love it. Its pungent flavor and creamy texture are just so irresistible. Today, it’s going in pasta. How about a simple spaghetti with bleu cheese? Sounds good to me!

Spaghetti with Bleu Cheese, Tomato, and Onion
Serves 2

150 grams Spaghetti
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Small Onion, thinly sliced
1 Tomato, diced small
3/4 cup Whole Milk
1/4 cup Bleu Cheese, crumbled
Handful of Parsley, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
Drizzle of Olive Oil

Cook the spaghetti per the package’s instructions, until just al-dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.

In a pan over medium heat, add the garlic and onion. Cook for about 1 minute, then add the diced tomato. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. After a couple of minutes when the tomatoes have softened, add the milk and crumble in the bleu cheese. Let cook for 2-3 minutes until the milk reduces a little, the cheese melts into the sauce, and the sauce thickens to coat the back of a spoon.

Add the pasta into the sauce. Add a few spoonfuls of cooking liquid, just to keep the pasta moist. Add the parsley and toss together. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.