Tuesday, November 29, 2011

French Onion Soup

Wow. This soup is extremely delicious but very rich! Be sure to eat this when you're 100% certain that a beach holiday is months away. It's so beautifully luxurious and fatty and topped with ooey gooey cheese. I bet there are enough calories in one cup to suffice your daily caloric intake but guess what people- Life Is Short and to maximize its pleasure you must love, laugh and indulge in good food!

7 large onions, thinly sliced
4 beef bones with marrow
5 sprigs of thyme
1 cup white wine
6 cups chicken or beef broth
1 tablespoon flour
1 french baguette
1/4 cup grated parm
1 cup grated gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Line a baking tray with tinfoil, place the bones on top and heat in a 425 degree oven until both sides are brow (30 min). Reserve the bones. Place the cut pieces of baguette on the fat that the bones released and coat both sides as much as possible. Return to the oven and cook until lightly toasted. Reserve.

In a large dutch oven  heat butter and olive oil. Add the onions, cooked bones and thyme. Cook on medium heat, stirring often until the onions become nice and brown (30 minutes). Add a good dash of salt and pepper. When the onions have reduced and are a rich dark brown add the flour. Mix well until it completely combines.  Remove 1/4 of  the onions and add the wine. Bring to a boil and reduce by  3/4. Add the stock and cook on a simmer for 1 hour. Return the reserved onions to the pot and fish out the bones. Taste it- does it lack flavour? If so add salt..

Fill 4-5 oven proof bowls 3/4 of the way up and top with toasted baguette and a good amount of parm and gruyere. Place on a baking tray lined with tin foil and put it in the oven with the broiler on high until the cheese bubbles and melts!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Eggs in Tomato Sauce and Garlic Bread

Mom and dad came to visit this weekend and I was so excited to show them that their little girl is all grown up!! I didn't let them lift a finger, had the bedsheets in my guest bedroom freshly pressed, made some flower arrangements and WOWED them (and myself) with my eggs baked in tomato sauce.

I had this in a restaurant on a previous occasion but did not like the way the egg yolk mixed with my tomato sauce. I intentionally cooked them just until their centers set into soft balls of yolk that warmed our plates like a lovely little sunrise!

The deliciously rich sauce, perfectly tender eggs and melted parm cheese tasted unbelievable when scooped up on a toasted garlicky baguette...yum yum yum!

This dish is ideal if you have house guests as you can make your tomato sauce ahead of time and bake it with the eggs in the morning! Everyone will wake up to the most delicious smells and you can pretend like you've been up for hours preparing it to make them feel extra special;)

1 can san marzano tomatoes from Italy (the quality makes all the difference)
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (use less if you're sensitive to heat)
4 cloves smashed garlic
1/2 cup cannellini beans
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon tomato paste
7 eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated parm cheese
1 parmigiano reggiano rind

Add olive oil, rosemary, chili flakes and garlic to a large ovenproof pan. Cook on med-low heat until the garlic softens. Remove the rosemary and add the tomatoes and water (you can break them up with your hands beforehand...be careful because they SQUIRT!).

Add the parm rind, cannellini beans and tomato paste. Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer on low. Add salt and sugar. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for with the lid slightly open for 1-2 hours (the longer it simmers the deeper the flavours will taste). Taste it- if it still has that metallic acidic taste from the can add a bit more sugar. If it needs more umph add some salt.

Preheat oven to 350. Crack each egg individually into a ramekin (it's easier to remove shells this way). Spoon a little hole into the sauce and place the egg. Carry on in a clockwise motion with each egg 1.5 inches apart. Place the final egg in the center and top with cracked pepper and grated parm cheese.

Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and see if the eggs have firmed. Is it all white or are there still some gloppy uncooked bits? If gloppy and uncooked, return to the oven and bake some more. Keep an eye on these guys as they can overcook in seconds! You'll know they're ready when all the whites have cooked and have a little give to the touch. This took me about 22 minutes but each oven is different!

Garlic Bread Ingredients:
1 french baguette cut lengthwise
1 clove garlic pounded in a mortar and pestle
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Dip a basting brush into oil mixture and brush over bread. You can top with parm cheese but I didn't because there's a lot in the eggs. Bake in the oven until golden brown!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

My mom is a gifted lady. She's charming, filled with laughter and love, principled, caring, smart and boy can she cook!

When we came to Canada she really took an interest in embracing other cuisines. Even though Filipino food was a given, we would always have something different each week from angel hair pasta with baby scallops, to chicken curry to sheppherd's pie! It was our way of getting to explore different cuisines and cultures and is something I truly value and continue to do with my husband. It was definitely a childhood favourite amongst my siblings- the hearty meat center, sweet burst in your mouth peas, silky mash and ooey gooey cheese totally danced on our palates! I've added pearl onions to the recipe because I feel it gives it an extra bite but it's still mom's in every way! It's pretty simple to make and is a wonderful winter warmer!

1 lb ground beef
1 onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic thinly diced
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon maggi seasoning
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon ketchup...I know...I know!
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen pearl onions
3 Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup..or more grated cheddar cheese (or any cheese you like)
1/2 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons butter

Heat olive oil in a oven-proof skillet and add the onions. Cook on low for about 7 minutes until they're soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the ground beef and brown well. Add the maggi seasoning, tomato paste, water, ketchup, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 minutes of low heat. If it gets dry add more water. you don't want it dry, you want there to be a bit of sauce! Add the pearl onions and green peas, mix well and reserve. You can top the skillet with the potatoes or transfer it to a smaller baking dish..

Preheat oven to 350.

Put potatoes in a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until fork tender. Remove from water and mash with butter and warm milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread them evenly over the minced meat and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the skillet, top with cheese and cook 10 minutes more.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pasta e Favagioli!

On a scale of 0 - Sad I'm Sad:(

You see, all week I've been looking forward to going to Dons Bogam but my dinner date couldn't make it.. Dons is my FAVOURITE Korean bbq restaurant and the thought of missing it makes me pine... and how I pine for you my sweet, salty delicious umami defining bbq!

So I'm at home surfing through delivery.com and nothing cuts it. No I don't want Thai, No thanks on the Chinese (had dim sum this weekend), kebabs...Nah.... Had curry on Sunday....Although I'd love some Italian I don't know if I can deal with a massive bowl of pasta that I won't have the restraint to neglect..plus I've been doing Insanity and fear I'll let down Shaun T!

But now I kind of do feel like pasta...So I turn to my kitchen thinking I'll make pasta e fagioli but see some fava beans I bought from the market... Eureka! Pasta e Favagioli was born.

This is MmmmMmmmMmmmMmmmm delicious...yes that many Mmmmms!

This soup is warming, rich and healthy...it totally erased my pining for Dons;)

2 lb shelled fava beens
1 white onion finely diced
5 cloves garlic, smashed
4 cups chicken stock (please make sure it's homemade or fresh from the store)
1 parm rind
1/4 cup parm cheese (for serving)
3/4 cup ditalini pasta
1 rib celery finely sliced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes or 2 roma tomatoes quartered
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add beans.  Cook for 3 minutes and drain. Remove the light green skins from the beans and reserve.

Heat a pot and add oil. Add the onions and celery, a good pinch of salt, pepper and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, allowing the sugars to release. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and cook another 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they collapse from their skins. Add the parm rind and bay leaf and cook 5 minutes more.
Add the stock, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add tomato paste, salt and pepper. Stir well. Add the pasta and cook until they're soft and chewy. Al dente isn't what you're looking for here. Serve with lots of freshly grated parm cheese!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kale Chips

I can say no to sweets but I'm incapable of saying no to chips. There's something about their crispy crunch that I find irresistible. Once I get going I can't stop and I feel rather pathetic as I find myself elbow deep in a bag of Salt and Vinegar -trying to fish out crumbs.

In efforts to find a healthier snacking alternative I make Kale chips! You won't bother with store bought after you make these! They are quick, effortless AND incredibly delicious.

1 bunch kale (I like Tuscan Kale)
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 and line two baking trays with tinfoil. 
Remove the kale leaves from its stalk and wash. Pat dry- you don't want them to be wet as they won't crisp in the oven. Toss the leaves in oil, salt and pepper. You want the leaves lightly coated but not drenched! Lay flat on a baking tray (you'll need two or you can do them in batches) and bake for 10 minutes or until you taste one and the leaves are crispy and chip-like!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Christmas in a Cup

This recipe is really quite simple. I named it Christmas in a cup because upon eating it, I felt like it was Christmas morning. The warm creamy milk sweetened by brown cinnamon sugar and plump raisins made me feel warm, hopeful and happy- totally enveloping me with the feeling Christmas!

I'm a bit embrassed to admit that I never wanted to share this recipe. It's so dear to me and is something my little brother Tristan and elder sister Patricia always ask me to make when I visit home. I secretly enjoy the fact that no one can make it quite like me because it's such a joy to prepare it and watch with delight as they enjoy every bite of Christmas in their cup! But Christmas is all about the gift of giving right?! So my gift this Christmas season is my most treasured little recipe, one that I concoted in my early teens and have kept a secret till now...

Ingredients (1 serving):
1.5 cups whole milk (don't bother with skim, 1 or 2%)
1/2 cup quaker oats
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon raisins
1/8th teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of salt

Bring the milk, sugar, raisins, salt and cinnamon to a boil. Immediately add the oats and reduce the heat to low and stir. Simmer gently on low heat for 5 minutes. Cover with a lid for 2 minutes and serve. I use more milk because I like it to taste like porridge.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Braised Chicken

Imagine looking out at a Manhattan snow storm from your 16th floor apartment. You watch in delight as swirls of magical snow softly dance around high rises that seem to stretch out to the sunny sky. A smile warms your face as you get comfy in your blanket and dig into the most delicious braised chicken stew that has notes of thyme and white wine in a deeply rich broth. You tear up some rustic french baguette, drown it in sauce and greedily scoop it with bits of tenderly cooked chicken into your mouth for that perfect perfect perfect bite. That was the experience I had  a couple weeks back when a snowstorm hit the city in mid October.

This braised chicken is magic. It's the absolutely perfect dish for cold winter days. It's filling, hearty and very healthy. Apart from some initial browning of the chicken, the dish uses very little fat and has loads of protein from the meat and cannellini beans!

1 whole chicken cut into eighths
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 large onion thinly diced
1 stock celery cut into thin slices
1 bouquet garni ( a bundle comprised of 5 sprigs of thyme, a handful of parsley and its stems, 2 bay leafs and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns wrapped in a cheesecloth and tied with butchers string)
5 roma tomatoes, quartered
1 can drained and washed cannellini beans
1 quart chicken stock (please use homemade or FRESH store made)
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1.5 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 cup flour

Rub a good amount of salt (at least 1.5 teaspoons), pepper, oregano and herbs de provence into the chicken. Sprinkle with flour and reserve.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large dutch oven and brown chicken (make sure to shake off any excess flour before placing in the pot). You may need to do this in batches to prevent over crowding. Don't touch the chicken. Don't move it, don't poke at it. Let it chill on medium-low heat for at least five minutes before you think of moving it... (of course, if you smell it burning move it, but it shouldn't if you follow my directions).
Turn it over. Is it brown? And not light brown..is it a beautiful deep dark rich brown? If the answer is yes, that's great! let the other side brown and develop in flavour as well. Once both sides have browned, remove and reserve.

Add onions to the pot and scrape up all the beautiful brown bits. Let the onions cook until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and  celery and cook for 4 minutes more. If it's getting dry, add some more butter or oil. Add the tomatoes and and cook them until they start to soften and relax a bit.
Add a pinch of salt and wine. Bring it to a boil and let the wine reduce to 1/4 of its 1 cup. Add the chicken and mix well. Add the chicken stock and bouquet garni cook covered on low heat for 1 hour. Add the beans and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. The chicken should be super soft, the broth should thicken to a nice thick soup consistency. If it's still then, you can mash up a spoonful of beans and mix them back into the sauce. Taste it. If it's too salty add more stock and reduce. If it's bland, add more soft. Remember, you're the chef and when it comes to cooking rules are meant for mending and adjusting to how you like them...not like baking! Serve with a fresh rustic baguette and call it a day:)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Picnic at Bryant Park

Beautiful crisp fall days where the sun and temperature simultaneously warm and cool you are hard to come by. To make the most of it I met my hubby at Bryant park for a picnic. I brought homemade crisps/chips (he's British and I'm Canadian so my double naming acts as a sort of conflict resolution), roasted chicken sandwiches, some yummy Sanpell, a pickle for me and two lindt chocolates!

It was lovely. I find it's hard to slow your pace in this big bustling city where everyones footsteps are fueled by an alarming sense of urgency. The energy at times overwhelms me so retreats like this are more than necessary! Needless to say,  it was nice to sit in a park with homemade goodies as I watched the hustling world go by- completely withdrawn.

Homemade Chips Ingredients:
2 sweet potoatoes
2 red beets
(you can use carrots, potatoes, turnips etc)
1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves smashed garlic
a handful of thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Use a mandellin to cut the potatoes 1/4 inch thick. Mix the veggies in olive oil, salt and pepper. Do them separately if using beets as they bleed). Top with garlic and thyme. Bake for 10 minutes, turn over and bake at least another 10 or 15minutes or until they start to brown on the edges. The beets are a bit deceptive as they don't brown, when they do it means they're burnt. The beets have no visual indicators of being done. The best way to test it is to remove one chip and leave in room temperature for 3 minutes. If it stiffens and gets crisp they're ready!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Moroccan Carrot and Lentil Salad

Yum. Not only is this a very pretty salad with lots of beautiful colours- it also tastes pretty incredible. It's loaded with contrasting textures and flavours and I couldn't possibly be happier with its outcome.

I wasn't supposed to make this for dinner, but I didn't have time to buy groceries and had to make something with the ingredients I had at home. I found some french green lentils, carrots, one shallot, garlic, yogurt, lemon and some cilantro on its deathbed and thought....Moroccan Salad!

So this was born out of scraps, but one would never tell... if you take the time to plate it properly it will look too good to eat!

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch sticks
6 cloves garlic, lightly pressed (want to keep it pretty much in tact)
1 shallot cut in half
1/4 cup full fat greek yogurt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ras el hanout
1/2 teaspoon coriander, cumin and garam masala powder
a couple sprigs of coriander
salt and pepper to taste

cook 1/4 cup lentils and 2 cloves garlic in lots of salted boiling water and cook until desired tenderness is reached. I cook it for about 25 minutes. I like a bit of bite. Drain and reserve

In the meantime heat oven to 400. Line a baking tray with tinfoil and toss carrots, garlic and shallots in 1 tablespoon olive oil, ras el hanout, cumin, coriander, garam masala, salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes or until the carrots are fork tender and have charred a little.

When cooked, remove the shallot and garlic from their skins (reserve two garlic cloves) and place them in a bowl with the carrots and lentils. Place the reserved cloves and coriander in a mortar and pestle and pound till it forms a paste. Add the yogurt, lemon, 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil,  juice and a good pinch of salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) into the mortar and pestle and blend. You can add chili flakes to it for heat if you like. Spoon over the salad and toss just before serving!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Yet Another Leg of Lamb....

Yes I know I love leg of lamb...what's a girl to do?!

This time I attempted something slightly different by removing the bone, stuffing it with garlic then rolling it back together as it once was- sans bone of course!

I roasted it until medium rare, let it rest for 10 minutes and ate it alongside these lovely baby tomato and rosemary spears...yumyumyum!

1 4lb leg of lamb- ask your butcher to debone to make your life easier!
10 cloves of peeled garlic- go through the effort of peeling it please! Pre-peeled garlic may be a time saver but it's a flavour assassin!
1/4 cup red wine
1.5 tablespoons dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Rub salt pepper and dijon over the front and backside of the lamb. Place the cloves of garlic all over the front side and then roll it back up and tie with butcher string. Marinade in red wine for 12-24 hours. Remove from marinade, bring to room temperature and place on a baking rack on top of a large ovenproof pan (put the bone in the pan...it will brown and add flavour to the drippings) so that it catches the delicious juices! Place in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 and cook until it's just under medium rare (135) and let rest for 10 minutes. The temperature will carry on cooking the meat and it will be perfectly pink! If you want more juice, deglaze the pan where the drippings are with 1/2 cup of red wine until it thickens and finish with 1 teaspoon of butter to make it shiny and velvety!