Roasted Marinated Sweet Red Peppers

It’s true, going through all the steps to grill and prepare these peppers does take a little bit of time.  Pick a sunny day and the sweet smell of them grilling will be enough payback.  Do enough for a dinner side dish also!  In the middle of winter when you open a jar you will immediately be transported back to that summer day.  I love using these in so many different appetizers, slivered in a salad or pasta or just served with a grilled steak.

Red pepper 4

These sweet peppers are an amazing way of capturing the tastes and smells of summer in a jar.

4 pounds firm, fresh and cleaned red bell peppers

Lightly oil peppers and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill until charred in spots and softened.  Put in bowl, cover tightly and allow to sit for 15 minutes until you can easily slip the skins off.   If you don’t have a barbecue you can also do this over an open flame or in your oven with the broiler unit.

Red pepper 1

MARINADE

  • 1 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, quartered
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Bring all marinade ingredients to boil in a saucepan.

Red pepper marinade 2

In most cases I would suggest squeezing fresh lemon juice, but in this instance the consistency and acidic content of bottled lemon juice is what you need.

If you want to use these within a few weeks, just fill the jars with peppers and pour the boiling marinade over.

Red pepper 3

Seal and keep in the fridge.

SEALING AND PRESERVING

Scald jars in boiling water and heat canning lids and sealers in boiling water.  Fill jars with peppers, immediately fill to within 1/2 inch of the top.  Quickly close the jars with lids and sealers and boil in canner for 15 minutes.

 

 

The BEST Crab Artichoke Dip

I’m not kidding you guys.  This dip is delicious, so make sure you get in there before your guests have consumed it all!

Crab Artichoke Dip 3

If you want a little “kick” stir in finely diced jalapeño chilies or chili flakes.

  • 1 8 oz block cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 1 tin good quality crab meat
  • 1 diced roasted sweet red pepper
  • 1 14 oz container artichoke hearts (diced)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (I like white)
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onion or chives
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream together the cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream … then add the Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire, & horseradish.  Give this mixture a good blend, I like to use my hand held blender for this to make sure it is all smooth and creamy.  If you do this before you add the rest of the ingredients all your flavouring will be evenly distributed before you stir in the rest.

Crab Artichoke Dip 1

Gently fold in the diced roasted red pepper, diced artichoke hearts, shredded cheese, sliced onion and lemon juice.  Stir carefully at this point so you keep all the distinct colours and textures.  Lastly stir in the crab meat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Crab Artichoke dip 2

 

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until it is bubbling.  Serve with crackers or sliced baguette, and stand back …. watch the crowd go wild.

 

Indian Vegetable Pakoras

Don’t even think twice about giving these a try – super easy and more flavour in every bite than you can imagine.

Pakoras 1

Look at the bits of craggy onion strips, potato shreds, broccoli bits and moist zucchini – how can you not love this?

I’ve been wanting to try making pakoras for some time now, they are one of my top five Indian dishes to order in a restaurant.  These hit it out of the park on my first try!!  So delicious, full of intense flavour, you can use as much or little of the spice as you like.  Crispy, craggy and loaded with fresh vegetables, you can make it just the way you like.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chickpea flour or besan
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

 

  • potatoes, cut into thin, small fingers/chips/cubes and washed
  • cauliflower, or broccoli, broken into small florets or chopped (or other vegetables)
  • onion, peeled and chopped
  • spinach leaves, washed and chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp fresh fenugreek or methi leaves, chopped (or use 1/2 tbsp. dry methi leaves)
  • 1-2 green chillies, chopped finely. Omit if you like the pakoras to be mild

Use your imagination for the vegetables, these are only suggestions.  For this amount of spice, and the chickpea flour you will need a total of 4 cups vegetables.

  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, adjust to taste
  • 1 tsp  chili powder, adjust to taste
  • 1/4 tsp coarsely crushed coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander powder or the spice blend, Chat Masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • Oil for deep frying
IMG_5513 2

Todays mixture included broccoli, zucchini, potato and onion – use whatever is fresh (or you need to use up). :o)

Instructions

  1. Place all vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle salt, as well as all the spices over the vegetables, and toss to combine.  Allow to sit for about 30 min so the water drains out of the vegetables.
  2. Add sifted (sift to remove lumps) chickpea flour/besan & baking powder slowly and make a slightly stiff mix of vegetables and besan, just enough to hold the vegetables together.  Usually, no additional water is required, as there is enough water released from vegetables. If the mix is too stiff, sprinkle a little water, so that all vegetables are bound lightly by besan.
  3. Heat oil in a wok. The oil is correct temperature, when a test pakora dropped in it sizzles and rises to the top of the oil quickly. The oil should not be smoking hot. Pakoras are crisper when cooked in medium hot oil.
  4. Drop small blobs of this mix into the hot oil gently, about 1- 1 1/2 tbsp. at a time. Wait until they sizzle to the surface and then turn them over. Continue turning intermittently, until all Pakoras are evenly golden brown and crisp on all sides.
  5. Rest to drain on an absorbent kitchen paper.
  6. Continue this way until all pakora mix is used up.
  7. If you need to keep them warm, put them in your oven at 200, perfect temp to keep them crispy and not overcook them.
  8. Serve immediately with chutney.
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Served tonight with chicken korma over rice, homemade naan bread (surprisingly easy) and these intensely flavoured pakoras.

Garden Fritters

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Make enough of these and it is a total meal, or use as an appetizer or side dish, either way, you are going to love these intense vegetable fritters.

 

I’m having a fritter moment.  It seems like a magical way of getting pounds of vegetables eaten up in record time, just when it is all at the peak of freshness, and who doesn’t love that?  I had to call these garden fritters, due to the tangle of grated zucchini, the wilted swiss chard, the crunchy pop of corn kernels fresh off the cob ….  Now just add to that a bunch of herbs, some garlic and a bit of cheese.  In today’s version I used feta and a bit of cumin.

If you make fritters just a few times you will quickly realize you don’t really need a recipe, but here is my general guideline:

  • 4 cups of vegetables
  • 1 clove of garlic (completely variable depending on your garlic love)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • salt, pepper and seasonings to taste

Now – once you’ve got  this far, just use your imagination with seasonings, and/or any cheese you decide to add.  Cheese certainly isn’t necessary, just adds another level of tasty goodness.

IMG_5380

These fritters have grated zucchini, lightly wilted swiss chard, corn kernels cut off a fresh cob, and herbs of parsley and chives.  One garlic clove and a bit of cumin with some feta cheese crumbled in created an intensely mouthwatering fritter.

A cast iron frying pan works best but any non stick pan will work well.  Lightly coat with oil, and on medium heat drop in dollops of the mixture.  Fry until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 min per side.

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HEAD’S UP – these delicious little kernels of corn will actually pop and sizzle like crazy in the oil – be prepared for the splatter.

I served these with a dip resembling tsatsiki:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup grated cucumber
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Zucchini Fritters

This recipe came directly from Smitten Kitchen (another wordpress site) and strangely enough (for me) I didn’t change it!

Zucchini Fritters 2

Crispy craggy bits of zucchini are a great contrast to the creamy aioli dip.

 

1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive or another oil of your choice, for frying

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Have a baking sheet ready.

Trim ends off zucchini and grate them either on the large holes of a box grater or, if you have one, using the shredding blade of a food processor. The latter is my favorite as I’m convinced it creates the coarsest and most rope-like strands and frankly, I like my fritters to look like mops.

Zucchini fritters 3

In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: pressing it against the holes of a colander with a wooden spoon to extract the water, squeezing out small handfuls at a time, or wrapping it up in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing away. You’ll be shocked (I was!) by the amount of liquid you’ll lose, but this is a good thing as it will save the fritters from sogginess.

Return deflated mass of zucchini shreds to bowl. Taste and if you think it could benefit from more salt (most rinses down the drain), add a little bit more; we found 1/4 teaspoon more just right. Stir in scallions, egg and some freshly ground black pepper. In a tiny dish, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the zucchini batter.

In a large heavy skillet — cast iron is dreamy here — heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet only a few at a time so they don’t become crowded and lightly nudge them flatter with the back of your spatula. Cook the fritters over moderately high heat until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. If you find this happening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed. Repeat process, keeping the pan well-oiled, with remaining batter. I like to make sure that the fritters have at least 10 minutes in the oven to finish setting and getting extra crisp.

Zucchini Fritters 1

Creamy Lemon Aioli

  • 1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp minced basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Blend it all together, and allow to sit in the fridge until fritters are ready.

KFC – Korean Fried Cauliflower

KFC

Slightly spicy, slightly sticky and a world of deliciousness.  Welcome to KFC.

I can tell you right now, this is worthy of the time investment.  Hayley had mentioned this dish to me years ago, when she and Andrea had it in Vancouver.  I was intrigued at that point, and tried it in a few restaurants, without feeling the love.  (at least not the love Andrea and Hayley expressed)   We finally did experience that, in Mexico City of all places!  Fat Boy Moves is the name of a Korean restaurant there, and it had such amazing reviews we had to try it out.  We went twice.  This cauliflower is the one item that makes Grant say he could be vegetarian … me too.  Once we got home I went on the search.  There are lots of recipes out there, but none of them had the steps or the ingredients I thought it would take to get that taste experience you just can’t get enough of.  Finally, with a recipe sourced out of “Carbon Bar” (restaurant in Toronto) I think I’ve nailed it.  The sauce makes more than you will need, so just enjoy that, and use it on whatever you feel like.

(sidebar here …. I have no idea if this is authentically Korean, but we had it in a Korean restaurant, so I’m calling it Korean!)

1 head cauliflower

green onions (for garnish)

Cauliflower

BUTTERMILK MIXTURE

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 sprigs finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

FLOUR MIXTURE

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder

KFC SAUCE

  • 1 cup gochujang (Korean fermented chili paste)
  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce (I use reduced sodium)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder

 

Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it and add cauliflower florets.  Cook for only 1 minute, then shock in ice water bath and allow to drain completely.

To make the KFC sauce, combine all ingredients in heavy bottom saucepan and stir until it comes to a boil.  Reduce heat and continue to stir occasionally until it reduces slightly and becomes somewhat like a syrup.  (Should take about 15 min) Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  This keeps well in the fridge for 10-14 days in a covered container.

KFC Sauce

Whisk buttermilk with cayenne pepper, nutmeg and thyme.  Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 4 days to allow seasonings to permeate buttermilk.

Whisk flour and dry ingredients together.

If you have a deep fryer, set it to 350, if not use a heavy bottom, deep saucepan and about 8 cups of vegetable oil for frying.  If you don’t have a thermometer, stick a chopstick into the oil … if little bubbles form around the chopstick you are ready to go!

Put your buttermilk mixture, and your flour mixture into separate large bowls.

Toss handfuls of florets into flour mixture and shake off excess flour.  Using a slotted spoon, dip cauliflower into buttermilk and again, let excess drip off.  Roll wet cauliflower back in flour mixture again, to coat.  Place on plate.  Repeat until all florets have been coated.

In small batches, carefully place florets in hot oil.  Do not overcrowd your pot or the temperature will drop and the florets will stick together.  You don’t want either to happen!  Fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove with slotted spoon to a paper towel line plate.

In large bowl toss fried cauliflower with about 3/4 cup of the KFC sauce until each is covered lightly and evenly.  Garnish with the green onions and serve immediately.

Prepare to be licking your fingers, looking for more, and already planning the next time you’ll make it.

Messy kitchen

Sadly, this is what my kitchen looked like by the time I finished. Was it worth it?  You bet, a thousand times yes, and I’ll be doing it again soon.  (and, I have no idea why the reflection out the window looks more like an apartment building and not like the tomato field it is …..)

Pretzel Bark

 

You might want to call this pretzel crack, because it is totally addictive!!  We make it for a Christmas treat to share with family and friends, but I’d advise you to make enough to keep for yourself too …

Pretzel bark

INGREDIENTS:

  • About 8 ounces (half of a 1-pound bag) mini pretzels, broken into smaller pieces, more or less to cover the pan
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups (one 12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips
  • Sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 11X17-inch rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Cover the bottom of the pan in a layer of broken mini pretzels. Set aside.
  2. In a small or medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and brown sugar. When the mixture starts to gently simmer and bubble, let it cook for 3 minutes without stirring. Immediately pour the hot caramel mixture over the pretzels in a back and forth motion to cover most of the pretzels (a few empty/dry spots are ok as the caramel will fuse together during baking).
  3. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack. Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top of the hot caramel and pretzels. Let the chocolate chips sit for 2-3 minutes until they melt. Use an offset spatula or rubber spatula to gently spread the melted chocolate over the toffee. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Let the toffee cool completely at room temperature then refrigerate if needed to help the chocolate set up. Break the toffee into pieces and try not to eat the whole batch.

(I found this recipe on Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)