Empanadas

Most cultures have a pastry/hand pie like this one ….. empanadas are famous in many countries, but I’ve only had the pleasure of eating them in Mexico so that is what I have fashioned these after.  They can be deep fried, but I prefer baking them for fluffy, flaky pastry and creamy filling.  Extra bonus points for the way your house smells while they are baking!

Empanada 1

In today’s version I used chicken, onion & red pepper, topped with a chunk of jalapeño havarti.  The tomatillo salsa was delicious for dipping!

Empanadas are such a treat.  These will give you flaky pastry, and a creamy tasty filling.

Make sure when you roll out your dough that you do it a little thinner than you would for a pie – you want to make sure you have a good ratio of filling to crust.

Empanada 2

Saute onions and garlic until softened, then add red pepper and cook for only a couple more minutes.  Stir in cooked shredded chicken and season to taste.  In this version, I added a couple of tablespoons of tomatillo salsa, and then topped with jalapeño havarti cheese for an extra bit of kick and creaminess.

Other suggestions for empanada filling:

  • ground meat seasoned with taco spices, topped with Oaxaca string cheese
  • leftover pulled pork and pickled red onions
  • wilted spinach, sautéed mushrooms and feta cheese
  • go sweet with fruit, cinnamon and a bit of vanilla

I’ve included my pastry recipe here, but if you aren’t into making your own pastry go ahead and use a prepared frozen pie shell.  Just take it out and roll it a bit thinner.

Cut your pastry into rounds, brush beaten egg around the outside and then put about a tablespoon or two of filling in the middle, add some cheese on top.  You will want enough filling so that your ratio of stuffing to pastry is tasty.  Fold edges up together and press to seal.  Set them on a baking sheet and pinch/crimp the top to make sure it is well sealed.

Brush beaten egg over the top of the sealed empanada, and then poke a hole so steam can escape and the pastry doesn’t leak too much of your goods outside the shell.

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  You can also freeze them on a cookie sheet at this point and bake later, from frozen.  Just bake a little longer.

Empanada 3

Oh, these were G O O D.  Before baking season the tops with salt and pepper.

Everybody loves flaky pie crust – but people are divided on whether to use shortening, lard or butter.  Through trial and error, I think I have found the best of them all – by combining lard and butter.  Try it ….. so light and flaky – you will love it.

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups white flour
  • 3/4 cup cold vegetable lard or (if you prefer) shortening
  • 3/4 cup cold butter
  • 5 tbsp very cold water
  • Lightly beat egg and vinegar

Whisk flour and salt

Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in lard/butter until pea sized.  Add very cold water to egg and vinegar mixture.  Make a hole in the center of the flour blend and stir in the egg/vinegar/water combination.  Work just until pastry comes together – adding slightly more liquid if it doesn’t, and if it is too wet, add a wee bit more flour.  Work together just until it all comes into a solid mass.  Knead very lightly on floured surface.  Wrap tightly and put in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.

Roll on lightly floured board until just thin enough to use for pie dough.

This recipe makes enough for 1 smaller pie (top and bottom) or a large deep dish pie crust bottom.

Japanese Nabe (Hot Pot)

How to describe this?  It’s really not a recipe – just ingredients and an idea of how to put it all together.  Our friend Tom made this the other day and I was immediately hooked.  How can something that just looks so simple end up feeling immensely satisfying and ever so delicious??

Nabe 1

Looks like a pile in a pot ….. right?  But, oh so good!  I could eat this on a weekly basis!

 

The base of this broth is as simple as the kombu you create it with.  Add about a 6 inch piece to 8 cups of water, let it sit for about 15-30 minutes, and then bring to a boil and allow to simmer until the kombu softens.  Some recipes will say to remove it at this point, but I didn’t, and we ate it – a bit chewy but still good!

Prepare all your vegetables while the kombu softens.  and broth simmers.

Keep the vegetables in groups according to how long it takes them to cook.  i.e., cabbage takes longer than snap peas!

I used:

  • savoy cabbage
  • carrots
  • sweet peppers
  • snap peas
  • bok choy
  • red onion
  • asparagus
  • bean sprouts

For a protein I used chicken breast and tofu.  The sky is the limit here, you can easily use whatever you like – just be aware of how long it will take to cook it, and put it in at the right time.  The last thing you want is soggy veg.

Nabe 3

Prepped and ready to go.

Nabe 2

If you have a pint sized helper like Stella, she will add the vegetables in the right order and keep everything moving.  That is teriyaki chicken beside her, and it was fantastic too.

For serving you need:

  • Ponzu (citrus soy sauce)
  • chili oil
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • thinly sliced green onions
  • cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Goma Shabu Sesame Sauce (I don’t have that one …yet)

Prepare Udon noodles while the sauce simmers.

The main objective here is not calling it a noodle bowl.  They finish off the show.  If you have individual mini bowls then each person can have their little assortment of the above condiments and sauces.  Traditionally you would ladle the veg & protein into your bowl, accepting the small bit of broth that comes with it.  You can either dress your bowl with the above, or dredge each bite in the accompaniments – your choice.  The pure joy in this comes from adding your finishing touches so everybody has it just they way they like.  When everybody is finished, then you add the noodles to the hot broth.  Once again, traditionally this would be on the table with a heating vessel to keep everything hot but I found it was warm enough to stir in the cooked noodles once we had finished eating the first “course”.  Those noodles are such a delightful way to finish slurping up your meal.

Shopping List:

  • assortment of veg
  • protein of choice
  • udon noodles (I like frozen best, if you can’t get fresh – over dried)
  • condiment toppings …… ponzu, sesame sauce, chili oil, sesame seeds, cilantro & green onion
  • kombu
Nabe 5

This is the dried kombu I found – you only need about 1/2 of one piece to go with 8 cups of water.

 

 

 

Tom’s Teriyaki Chicken

teriyaki chicken 6

This teriyaki chicken hits all the notes, crispy bits of carmelized chicken, sweet and salty,  tender and juicy – give it a try, you will love it.

Thanks go to our friend Tom for this simple teriyaki marinade that is as perfect as it is easy.  Works well with any protein, just to make it even simpler for you.

Marinade:

  • 1 cup soy sauce (reduced sodium)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 golf ball size knob of ginger, grated or finely minced.

Combine and stir until sugar has dissolved.

2 pounds of bonelesss, skinless chicken thighs – cut into bite size pieces

Garnish:

  • green onions, thinly sliced
  • sesame seeds, toasted until golden brown

Marinate the chicken in the teriyaki sauce for at least an hour and up to overnight.  Remove from marinade and place in hot saute pan.  Do not overcrowd the pan or the chicken will just steam rather than get nice crusty bits of caramelization.  Allow to cook, without disturbing, until you see the colour start to change on top of the chicken and the chicken releases easily from the pan to turn over.

Serve with rice and your favourite greens.

Teriyaki chicken 1

See the marinade bubbling up beneath the chicken?  That’s going to get all glossy and give the chicken nice little bits of delicious caramelization – don’t disturb it while this is happening.

teriyaki chicken 2

You can see some of the browned bits – that is pure gold.

Teriyaki 3

If you’d like a little extra to drizzle over, make a little sauce without the ginger and allow it to thicken.  Adds a fantastic bit of sweet and salty flavour.

Drizzle:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup soya sauce
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch

Combine the water, soya sauce and sugar, stir until sugar has dissolved.  Add in the corn starch and cook over medium heat until sauce has come to a boil and allow it to reduce slightly.  (Corn starch as a thickener has to boil or you will still taste the corn starch!)

Teriyaki 2

Tonight’s dish was a teriyaki bowl – utilizing a combination of chicken thigh and chicken breast with a little shredded carrot for crunch and cilantro for brightness.

Realistically you could use this recipe for any protein you like, or make it with a large assortment of vegetables for a vegetarian dish.  The teriyaki sauce is the star!

Creamy Cucumber Herb Salad Dressing

Creamy Cucumber dressing 2

We used to love going to a small restaurant in Mexico City, no name on the building and just a few wooden chairs and tables on the sidewalk … but oh … the food!  For 99 pesos we received an amazing set menu with four courses and it was always fantastic.  The chef moved on … (we spotted him at another place finally).  If I could remember the name of his new spot I’d definitely give you a recommendation to try it!  Anyhow … what was I saying … oh of course … this is a salad dressing recipe.  He made this incredible creamy cucumber salad dressing that was divine.  I asked him the recipe and he gave me the basic idea but claimed the key was the sea salt he used.  We walked miles looking for the store he told us to go to, without success.  Eventually, on another trip we found the salt  (from Cuyutlan), and have continued to pick it up every time we go to Mexico City!  I’ve finally hit the right ingredients here and this is delicious.

  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • handful of fresh herbs (I used basil, parsley and oregano)
  • 1 garlic scape
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

Roughly chop the herbs and cucumber and place in blender, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Give it a really good whiz until smooth and creamy.  Depending on how juicy your cucumber is, you can thin it out a bit with milk or buttermilk if needed.

Tossed Salad

This is delicious tossed with your favourite salad, roasted and room temperature vegetables or as a dipping sauce.

Lemon Artichoke Pasta

 

Lemon Artichoke Pasta

Have you ever seen artichokes growing in the field?  Well, maybe it isn’t a big deal to Californian’s……  It took a few miles before we realized that was what we were seeing but ever since we cooked some fresh artichokes (Thanks Meghan)  I can’t stop adding them to everything. This quick and easy pasta dish is bright and refreshing – dinner ready in 20 minutes!

  • 2-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 pack angel hair/capellini pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 can (14 ounces) water-packed quartered artichoke hearts, well drained
  • 1/2 cup minced sun dried tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper

This recipe makes enough to serve 2-4 people.  4 as a side, 2 as a main meal

Angel hair pasta cooks very quickly (4 minutes) to prepare the artichoke sauce first and allow it to sit while you cook the pasta.

Saute the shallots in the melted butter, adding the artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, and garlic as soon as the onions have softened.  When heated through add the olives, parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Set aside while the pasta cooks.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, pull it out of the boiling water and drop it into the lemon artichoke sauce, allowing some of the pasta water to drip into the pan also.  Stir in the spinach and let the warm pasta wilt the spinach.  Add feta and serve with fresh ground pepper and parmesan shavings to garnish.

 

 

Hot & Sour Soup

Nothing like a steaming bowl of hot and sour soup to fight off the cold season!  This soup is surprisingly easy to make and can be as versatile as the ingredients in your fridge.  You won’t be calling for take out after you give this a try.

Hot and Sour Sop

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp sambal oelek (or any Chinese hot sauce)
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 4-5 tbsp rice vinegar (start with 4 and see how it tastes to you)
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • shitake mushrooms
  • thinly sliced red peppers
  • thinly sliced cauliflower
  • slivered snap peas
  • 6 ounces extra firm tofu, cut in small pieces
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • green onions, thinly sliced

For a little extra protein, stir in some cooked chicken or pork.

Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, hot sauce and white pepper.  Bring to a boil, then simmer.

Stir in vegetables.  Be as liberal with the vegetables as you like, I like to pack the soup with a variety.

Mix rice vinegar with corn starch and stir while pouring the mixture into the pot.  Allow to gently boil and thicken.  If you need more thickening, add a mixture of 2 tbsp vinegar and 1 tbsp corn starch.

This is the point where you really need to taste …. how hot do you like it?  How sour?  Work with the white pepper and vinegar if you need a little more punch in your soup.  Once you like the flavour it is time to work in the eggs.

Whisk egg until creamy, then pour into the soup in a very slow, thin trickle, stirring the pot as the egg goes in to create those little streams that help give you that true hot and sour soup texture.

Garnish with the sesame oil and green onions.  Best served with these amazing scallion pancakes.

Scallion Pancake 9.jpg

Zucchini Ricotta Galette or Tomato Galette

Got a plethora of zucchini in your garden?  Here you go, you are very welcome.  Even if you don’t, head to the grocer or market and buy some because this galette is just that good.

Galette 8

This photo is gorgeous …. but even that doesn’t do it justice.  Oh, the crispy puffy pastry, the creamy rich base …the fresh from the garden (or market) zucchini …. and the aroma as it bakes. This is a sure winner, and certain to be on repeat.

Veg Galette 3

Incredibly delicious as a tomato galette also.

Serve this with a salad for a great vegetarian meal or cut into small pieces for an appetizer, either way it’s fantastic!

For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chill again
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

Filling:
1 large or 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves

Glaze:
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Veg Galette 2

Glazed and ready for the oven – they already look and smell fantastic.

 

Make dough: Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Make filling: Spread the zucchini out over several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let drain for 30 minutes; gently blot the tops of the zucchini dry with paper towels before using. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and the garlic together; set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, and 1 teaspoon of the garlicky olive oil together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare galette: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet (though if you line it with parchment paper, it will be easier to transfer it to a plate later). Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the bottom of the galette dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Shingle the zucchini attractively on top of the ricotta in concentric circles, starting at the outside edge. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of the garlic and olive oil mixture evenly over the zucchini. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze.

Bake the galette until the cheese is puffed, the zucchini is slightly wilted and the galette is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Galette 2

See …. not quite enough cutting in yet, those butter cubes are too big.

Galette 3

Small, pea sized bits now and the liquid added.

Galette 4

Do not over mix, just get it together and wrap it to put in fridge for at least 30 minutes).

Galette 7

Salt, and allow to sit for a bit in order to draw the liquid out.

Galette 5

As you can see …. I’m not the best at an exact “12 inch” circle …. but I’m working on that!

Galette 6

Mix all your cheeses with the olive oil & garlic blend … adjust to taste with salt and pepper.

Galette 1

WHAT??  Already I’m crazy about this and it hasn’t even hit the oven yet.  Yes, I need to work on my even edges … ha ha

Veg Galette

Tonight we had enough people celebrating Stella turning 6 that I needed to make 2 …. so I did a tomato galette as well as zucchini.  Both were delicious.

Be as inventive as you like with the cheeses, using the amounts as your guidelines.  With the tomato galette I used aged gouda as well as the ricotta and parmesan.  With the zucchini, tonight I had old white cheddar on hand ….  What won’t change is how amazing your house smells!  Go ahead, invite the neighbours in …..

 

Absolutely full credit (as well as the copy/paste feature) for this recipe – IN TOTAL – goes to Deb Perelman at http://www.smitten kitchen.com  – one of the very rare recipes I didn’t play around with at all …. okay except I used a couple of patty pan squash because I had them….