Friday, 6 January 2012

Chicken Cacciatore (MY Way!)

Back when I was single, I used to live in a cute little bachelorette pad that was right above the greatest Italian shop ever! They were a grocery store and deli, but also made the best food! Sandwiches, Cannolis, gnocchi’s, sauce and pasta dishes. Once in a while, they would make this Chicken Cacciatore that was so amazing! But they made it so seldom and sometimes when they did make it, my poor college kid self couldn't even afford it! (8 bucks was a lot of money back then!)

Fast forward 9 years and I'm still dreaming about it. I never made it myself as I was too scared to try and fail and the original owners of the place sold it to another wonderful Italian family who never made it again, so I couldn't go back now that I had a steady income.

I decided to put my foot down and finally make it myself. Or at the very least, try to make it myself. I used organic ingredients, free range unmedicated chicken, gluten free flour and served it atop of a mound of gluten free, brown rice pasta. I didn't have any wine but you could certainly add wine to the sauce if you'd like. Serve it with a glass of red, a nice salad and crusty bread and you have a delicious meal!



Sauce
1 Onion, chopped not too small
2 Tablespoons Garlic chopped
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Sautee until onions are softened and maybe a little colored

Add 12 Organic tomatoes diced
Salt & Pepper
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Sugar (I used dermara sugar cus that’s all we use at home and it’s got a richer molassesy taste
Mix up and cook on high heat until it liquefies and starts reducing liquid

Add ½ cup of Balsamic Vinegar
Using your immersion blender, blend it into a sauce

Add 1/3 cup tomato paste
Mix it up and let simmer and reduce.. you want it thicker
(If you don't have enough sauce to suit your needs, you can always add some passata (strained tomatoes) to the pot and simmer it together. I ended up doing that as I was aiming for three casserole dishes of food.)

Chicken
Wash and pat dry chicken thighs and legs and set aside
In a shallow dish, add flour (I used Gluten Free All Purpose Flower)
Add Salt, Pepper and Paprika to  the flour and mix with a fork

Using tongs, dredge your chicken pieces one at a time and shake off excess flour, set aside in a plate

In a Big High-Sided Frying Pan
Cut up 1 cup of Pancetta into cubes and put in the bottom of the pan at low to medium heat with the lid on and slowly render out the fat
(this takes a longer time, I did this first and then prepped all my veg)
With a spoon, carefully pick out all the crispy pancetta bits and set aside in a bowl for later. Keep the oil in the pan

Add a couple glugs of Olive Oil to the pancetta fat and turn up the heat to medium high

Using tongs, gently place the floured chicken into the oil to lightly fry the outside. Do not over crowd the pan and do it in batches if you need to.
Turn over each piece so it’s golden all over (doesn’t have to be cooked). Set aside on a clean plate. Repeat until all chicken is done

After you’re done with frying the chicken, keep the pan with oil in it over the heat and add the following
One onion (cut in quarters and then cut into thin strips like an inch long)
1 Red and ½ Green pepper (cut into quarters or sixths and then cut into thin strips like an inch long)
1 small tin of Anchovies, melt it into the pan, mashing it down with your spoon and combining it well)
Scoop of chopped garlic
Red pepper flakes to taste
Sautee until slightly softened

Add like a tablespoon of UMAMI Taste #5 (optional, but so good!)

Add in the crispy pancetta bits from before, a handful of chopped black calamata olives and a handful of chopped capers
Sautee further

Add sauce from above
Simmer slightly. Turn off heat

Assemble
In your casserole dishes, spoon the sauce into the bottom, good and thick layer
Place your chicken on top of the sauce and nestle it in
Put your lid on your dish and throw it into the over at 375F for 40 minutes
Take off the lid, spoon a bit of the sauce over the chicken now
Place it back in the over for another 20-30 minutes.

Serve
Serve with shorter pasta, like penne, rotini, rigatoni etc. I used gluten free rotini   
You can also serve it with bread, rice, polenta,  potatoes etc

Top with torn basil and fresh parm

Yield
This made three casserole dishes for me (I froze the other two for lazy or busy days) It yielded six thighs and 8 legs. You could use your own jarred sauce, but add balsamic to the mix at some point cus you need the flavor and it adds another layer of complexity

Delish!

Friday, 14 October 2011

When in Rome...

During our adventures in Europe, we decided to eat the local specialities in each city we visited. Waffles, Beer, Moules and Frites in Belgium; Pannekoeken in Amsterdam; Croissants and Fois Gras in Paris; Civapcici and Pasticada in Croatia; Tapas and Paella in Spain. We totally craved Italian food the whole time we were in Europe, and except for a couple slip ups, vowed not to eat pizza or pasta until we reached Italy. 


My most memorable meal in Italy was at a restaurant on a patio overlooking the nearly 1900 year old Pantheon. It wasn't cheap, but generally, restaurants closest to touristy attractions aren't. 


I decided to order a dish I'd never heard of that sounded amazing: Bucatini all'Amatriciana. I was blown away, trying to stuff every last tasty bite into my tummy. The portion was too big and I had to leave half of it behind. It broke my heart, but we were sans fridge, so it had to be done. The meal was even better than the view (If that could even be possible!) I promised to make it as soon as I got home, before I could forget how seriously amazing this dish was. When I got home and looked it up, I found out it was pretty much the regional dish of Rome, well Lazio, the region of Italy where Rome is. How cool is that? I ate the regional dish of Rome in Rome! When in Rome...


The dish calls for Guanciale, a cured meat made from the jowls or cheeks of the pig and is the regional specialty of Lazio. I looked for this all over Bosa Foods and couldn't get my hands on it. Pancetta is close enough and makes a decent substitution, so that's what I ended up using. When I ate this in Rome, it was with Guanciale and let me tell you, it was fantastic! If you can find it, use it, if not, Pancetta is great too. 


4 cups of Tomato Sauce 
1/2 small Sweet Onion, minced
1 - 1 1/2 cups of Guanciale or Pancetta, cubed into 1/4" cubes
3 Roma Tomatoes, cubed
1 500g box of Bucatini
2 Tablespoons Salt
Pecorino Romano Cheese, shredded fine
Fresh Basil Leaves, roughly chopped
1-2 Tablespoons EVOO


In a big pot, boil water for the pasta. When it comes to a boil, add the salt and Bucatini, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking and to get all the pasta to submerge (it's pretty long and thick so it may take a while. Follow package instructions for boiling time. My box said 11 minutes, but I let it boil a bit longer as I don't like mine too hard. You want it al dente. 


Meanwhile, in a big flat bottom pan with high flat sides, coat the bottom with your EVOO. 


Lay your Guanciale or Pancetta in a single layer in the pan. Place over medium heat, covered for about 7 minutes. Flip them over and recover to cook the other side for another 5 minutes. You don't want to heat too hot as you want the fat to render out of the pork without burning. use your judgement. If it's too hot, turn the heat down. 


Once the Pancetta is golden all over, but not super crisp, add the onions to the pan and sauté for a couple minutes.


Add the tomatoes and sauté until they start breaking down a bit, about 5 minutes with the lid on. 


Pour in the Tomato Sauce, stir to combine and let it simmer with the lid on to heat through, until the pasta is ready to go. 


When the pasta is done, drain it really well, shaking off all the water- DO NOT RINSE! NEVER RINSE!!!  Get it into the pan with the sauce. Combine until all the noodles are coated and the Pancetta bits are distributed evenly. 


Throw the lid on and turn off the heat. Let it hang out, while you get your table ready, get your Pecorino Romano shredded, get your basil chopped or torn, etc. When you mix up your bowl to eat, the cheese will combine with the sauce and stick to the noodles better and it will become a part of the sauce. Don't omit the cheese and basil, they are the best part!


Dish it out into your favourite pasta bowls. Top with a very generous portion of the shredded Pecorino Romano and torn/chopped Basil leaves to taste. You can serve this up with a salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, basil, balsamic and your best EVOO. 


This dish tastes even better the next day for lunch! 


Ohhh Myyyyy Goooooood.... So Delish!


Enjoy!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Advocate for the Brussels Sprout

I just got back from Europe. It was an amazing holiday, full of driving, exploring and eating. Our first stop was Brussels, Belgium. I was so excited about going to Brussels, for so many reasons, but food was definately one of them! Belgian Chocolates, Belgian Waffles, Liegois Waffles, Belgian Beers, Belgian Endive, Steak Frites, Moules, and our tiny loathed friends, the Brussels Sprouts. 


How did the Brussels Sprout get such a bum rap? Traditionally, home cooks would make brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner as an after thought, spending more time and energy on the star attractions at the dinner table, like the turkey and the stuffing. Brussels sprouts would get no love and would be overcooked. Overcooking the sprout causes it to get grey and "sulferish" smelling. We all grew up being forced to eat the smelly suckers, hating every morsel. 


And what a shame too! According to sources, Brussels Sprouts are packed with anticancer properties (generally lost from boiling them), as well as indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that helps to amp up DNA repair in cells, as well as, Vitamins A, C, Folic Acid, Fibre, and some say they even help to fight colon cancer. 


My dear husband, grew up hating veggies and it's been my personal obsession to make him love veggies. So far, it's been really successful, but Brussels Sprouts were the ONE THING he refused to eat. He actually ate this dish and has been bragging to anyone willing to listen, that THESE Brussels Sprouts are to die for. Aaaahhh Mission Accomplished. 


I'm here to advocate the revival of the Brussels Sprout. These tiny bites need love and attention to deliver a nutritious and tasty side dish.


3-4 cups of Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, loose leaves peeled off, cut in half
1/2 cup of Pancetta, diced into 1/4" pieces
1 Tablespoon EVOO
3/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Shallot, minced 
1/2 cup water
shavings of Pecorino Romano Cheese


Prep your Brussels Sprouts and soak them in a bowl full of cold water.


In a pan, heat your Balsamic Vinegar until it reduces by half, about 2 minutes over med-high heat. Stir in the butter, until it's melted. Set aside in a bowl. Whip your pan clean.


In your pan, add your EVOO and coat the bottom. Add your diced pancetta over medium heat and cover. Let the fat melt out. After about 5 minutes, the pancetta should be golden, so flip them and continue rendering out the fat and crisping up the pancetta for another 5 minutes. Spoon the pancetta into a paper towel-lined bowl. Keep the fat in the pan, but pull the pan off the heat


Drain and dry the Brussels Sprouts well (you can do this while the pancetta cooks away in the pan)


Place the Brussels Sprouts into the pan of Pancetta fat, cut side down (move fast, but don't burn yourself). Place back on the heat on medium-high heat


Add 1/2 Cup water and let it steam away until the water evaporates, about 5 minutes. 


Add the minced shallot. A minute later, add the crisped Pancetta and a couple spoonfuls of Balsamic Vinegar and toss to incorporate. Add more Balsamic as you see fit. You're just looking for a light glazing. 


Serve immediately topped with shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese. 


Optional, add toasted pine nuts for some crunch.


Oh My God So DELISH!


Enjoy!

Tomatoverload?

Living with your in-laws is never a good time. But it does have some benefits too. My father in law has a fabulous compost right outside, for all the household compostables. He's also converted his entire yard to gardening food for the house. Everything from plums, pears and figs; to green beans, parsley and carrots. Most of all, Tomatoes! around this time of year, the house is over run with tomatoes everywhere! He lays them all out in a single layer on every flat outdoor surface he can find, and then looks for opportunities to make things with all his bounty. This year, I decided to steal (err, borrow?) two huge bowls of tomatoes to make a big pot of sauce for us and them. 


One Giant Sweet Onion, diced
One Giant head of garlic, cloves sliced thin (use a mandoline-CAREFULLY!)
3-4 Tablespoons EVOO
20-30 Tomatoes, cut into chunks
2 Tablespoons of freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoon of sea salt
1 1/2 Tablespoon ofTurbinado Sugar
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped fine


In a giant Sauce Pot, add your EVOO, and your diced onions. Sweat out your onions until they are about translucent. Add your Garlic, mix it up and let it sweat out over medium heat.


Add your tomatoes, your salt and your pepper. Stir, cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Do this for about an hour (or longer). Your tomatoes will be liquidy and soupy. 


Add your sugar and using your fabulous immersion blender, blend everything in your pot really well. 


Let your sauce simmer over medium (maybe a bit lower than medium) for an hour, maybe two, with the lid on. Stir in your oregano, and recover. Turn off your heat. Taste to see if you need to add seasoning. It should be tasty and balanced, but simple. You'll be adding to it when you use it to cook with later. 


Your sauce should have reduced by at least 1/3. Keep the cover on and leave it out on your stove overnight (or in your fridge-the stove may not be food safe, it's just how I do it). 


The next day, pour your sauce into big freezer bags into usable portions.  Make sure you push all the air out of the zipper before sealing the bags. Throw it into the freezer, flat.


Pull out as needed. The zippy bags make it super easy to defrost! You can just keep it in a sink full of water to defrost while you prep and til you're ready to heat it up!


Tomato Sauce.. or Saowse as they call it in Joisey.. Delish!


Enjoy!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Mealtime Mashup

French Onion Soup Mac & Cheese


I know.. WTF... what am I thinking? I know... You must think I'm crazy....


...Crazy Genius! I know! 


Who doesn't LOVE French Onion Soup?! 


Who doesn't LOVE Mac & Cheese?!


So, Poof! my favourite mealtime mashup!


Now, let's be honest, I'm not even going to pretend this is even kind of healthy. Ingredients like Flour, Butter and Cheese are unavoidable (I refuse to make this dish without either! Sister needs a Roux!) but I substituted some things to make this dish slightly easier to digest. Gluten Free Pasta instead of the regular stuff. Unsweetened Unflavoured Almond Milk (I LOVE Earth's Own Almond Fresh-Tastes like milk but not!) Remember, It's ok to be bad, once in a while... Serve with something super healthy, avoid dessert that night and hit the gym!


Ingredients 
One big sweet onion, cut in half and sliced seriously thin (Mandolin Time!)
Splash of Canola Oil
Butter (have a stick on hand, but you'll need less)
2 heads of roasted garlic (See my old post about roasted garlic)
1/3 cup AP Flour
2 cups Milk (I used unsweetened Almond milk-but regular milk would work)
2 HUGE spoonfuls of Dijon
3 cups of Gruyere Cheese shredded
1 1/2 cups Extra Old Cheddar shredded
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon of Cayenne (to taste, I used more)
1 teaspoon of Smoked Paprika
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
salt & peper to taste (Leave the salt to last and taste the food before you add it in, you cheese may be salty enough)
3 ish cups of short pasta (I used Gluten Free Penne) (Reserve the pasta water, like a couple cups, you may need it)
6 slices +  of Sourdough bread, crusts cut off, ripped up into tiny pieces, toasted lightly in the oven


Preheat your broiler


Pasta
Put a big pot of water to boil, once boiling, cook up the pasta of choice to almost al dente, according to the package directions. Try to do this at the same time as making the sauce if you can. 


Sauce
In a big high sided frying pan, put all the onions in on medium heat with the lid on, stirring occasionally. If it starts burning, turn the heat down, once it starts sticking a bit, add a splash of Canola and scrape up the goodness off the bottom. 


Once it's caramelized and brown, add the roasted garlic cloves from two heads of garlic


Add 3 Tablespoons of butter. 


Once melted somewhat, add the flour and stir it up to cook off the flour and incorporate everything together, crushing any whole garlic cloves that might still be.


Slowly stir in the Almond Milk (or milk) mixing thoroughly. Add the Dijon (Be super generous with the Dijon) Stir well.


Add  2 cups of the Gruyere (reserve the third cup for later) and 1 1/2 cups of the Cheddar slowly, melting the cheese into the sauce over medium-low heat. 


Add the Worcestershire, the Cayenne, the Paprika, the Pepper, and the Nutmeg. If the sauce is looking super thick, thin it a bit with the hot pasta water. 


Taste the sauce. add salt as needed. Try to just taste it once, but, you may keep going back in like I did (I HAD to be sure it was ok!) (Even more fun is using the sourdough crust scraps... you don't want that to go to waste!)


Topping
Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter


Toss the Sourdough Croutons in the butter


Assembly
Drain the pasta really well. Shake off all the water and add it to the sauce and mix really well. Let it sit while you're making the croutons and let the sauce get right up in there!


Pour all the saucey pasta into a big shallow baking dish.


Spread out the buttery croutons all over the top of the mac


Sprinkle the last cup of Gruyere over the top


Broil it til it's bubbly and browned on top


Pull it out and let it sit for a couple minutes while you get the table ready. 




Serve with veggies or salad. I served mine with steamed broccoli. 




Should serve about 6-8 people 


Sinful. Dangerous. Delish.


Enjoy!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Hhhhmmm Corn on the Cob!

I don't like to eat anything normal. I need flavour and spice to make my meal interesting. This dish is different and super simple. It's a great way to make something predictable and ordinary into something extraordinary! 


Corn on the Cob is a wonderful summer side dish-but don't think for a second this guy is a vegetable. Corn is technically a grain, like wheat and holds a very high sugar content. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn Since it has a high sugar content, it should be eaten in moderation. Corn syrup is what makes pop sweet! So for me, Corn is a treat, that I don't eat too often!


The sweetness in Corn is where I found my inspiration. Try this out and try out your own variations and let me know what you thought! There's a couple ways you can cook this, but the flavours and ingredients are the same.


Sweet & Spicy Chinese Five Spiced Corn
Corn on the Cob, one per person, or to taste
Butter, to taste
Cayenne, to taste 
Chinese Five Spice Powder, to taste
Salt, to taste 
Pepper, to taste


Method 1-Indoors

  1. Boil the Corn in it's husks, DO NOT ADD SALT TO THE WATER (About 10 or so minutes in rolling boiling water)
  2. Shuck the corn while hot-Be careful!
  3. Cut the Corn into smaller pieces, like in half or thirds.
  4. Toss cooked corn in a big bowl with all the other ingredients



Method 2-BBQ

  1. Shuck the corn
  2. Cut the corn into smaller pieces, like in half or thirds.
  3. Cut pieces of tin foil that are 1 1/2 feet long, one per ear of corn
  4. Place corn in the middle of the tin foil
  5. Top with Chinese Five Spice Compound Butter***
    1. The Compound Butter will wrap itself all around the corn in the cooking process and the butter will likely find a way to leak out, so don't panic about the amount of butter you use, or having to smear it all over the corn
  6. Wrap up tightly to seal the packets
  7. Put on indirect heat on the BBQ until corn is cooked, flipping once (10-15 minutes)



***Chinese Five Spice Compound Butter (For ten ears worth of corn)
1 stick of Butter
1 Tablespoon of Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon of Ground Pepper
1/2 teaspoon of Salt


Mash it all together. I find keeping the butter cold and then shredding the cold butter with a fine shredder helps, especially when you forgot to take the butter out to soften and you're in a hurry


What is Chinese Five Spice Powder, anyways?! It's a blend of five Chinese spices. Star Anise, Cinnamon, Cloves, Fennel, and Sichuan Pepper. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_five_spice can find this blended together in a mix in the Spice section of your local grocery store. Buy it! Try it! Use it in different applications! I imagine it would be mighty delish in French Toast? (Must try that next time I make french toast!)


Enjoy!



Friday, 15 July 2011

Nourish-ing Salad!!!

I was inspired by a recent Wendy's lunch. I really wanted to try to replicate their Berry Almond Chicken Salad... but I needed some ingredients. I headed over to my favourite organic grocery store Nourish Market in the Lynn Valley Village www.nourishmarket.ca where I was greeted by Jeff and Adrienne (the bestest grocers ever!) Jeff shared his favourite salad, which, oddly enough, kinda sounded like the one I had at Wendy's. He recommended some of his favourite ingredients and I was set!


Coconut Grilled Chicken
2 chicken breasts
1/2 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (Artisana Raw Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil)
Sea Salt to taste
Cayenne to taste


Salad (Quantities to taste)
Mixed Mâche Greens (Mâche, Frisse, Radicchio) 
Sliced Strawberries
Blueberries
Raspberries
Sliced Ripe Mango
Maple Mixed Nuts (Prana Go Nuts Maple Mixed Nuts)
Goat Cheese
Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette (Little Creek Cherry Balsamic Dressing)
Coconut Grilled Chicken Chicken (See Above)


Take your goat cheese, usually in a small cylindric shape, and throw it in your freezer. TRUST ME!


In your frying pan, over med-high heat, add your coconut oil and let it melt. Meanwhile, rinse and pat your chicken dry. lightly dust your chicken with sea salt and cayenne. Add to your hot pan until the bottom of your chickens have a nice golden colour. Flip and reduce the heat to medium. Put a lid over the chicken. (WARNING-You kitchen and the rest of your house will smell like warm sinful coconut forget your scented candles! Cook with this stuff!) Once it's done, let it rest on a cutting board and cut up into bite sized pieces.


While that's cooking, you can slice your strawberries and mangos and wash and prep the blueberries and raspberries. Get it all ready to rock in small bowls so you can assemble quickly. The chicken should be done by now. 


Time to assemble your salad! Layer your greens on a plate. Sprinkle your strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango, and a small handful of Maple Mixed Nuts over your salad. Add the chicken (once somewhat cooled) and drizzle lightly with your dressing. You won't need a lot of dressing since there's so much flavour bursting all over this salad!


Grab your goat cheese out of your freezer. unwrap a hunk of it, or peel back the plastic. Using your micro-plane, lightly dust the top of your salad with your goat cheese. Since it's almost frozen, it's way easier to shave on the micro-plane and this way you don't get too much goat cheese, just enough! It will add an extra level of salty decadence against all your juicy fruit!


And VOILA!


I used some amazing products that I bought at Nourish Market today. Chances are, you may not have access to this stuff. Get creative! Use any nut mix, hemp hearts, flax seeds, or toasted oats in place of the Prana Go Nuts (but if you can get it, it's so worth it!) You can use EVOO, or Canola in place of Coconut, but remember all the health benefits of coconut oil and when was the last time your EVOO permeate your house is delicious smells? You can avoid dressing if you like, or make your own. Just remember you don't need much. The salad tastes damn good without too! Vegetarian? Omit the Chicken, add more nuts for protein. Vegan, skip the cheese too! You can't go wrong with this salad!


Enjoy!