Alex’s smash hit dressing!

Longer brighter days are coming and I can’t wait. We have a salad almost every night, and with the warmer weather approaching they often take the form of a “meal in a salad”. This dressing hits it out of the park for a delicious flavour bomb to dress pretty much anything with. Give it a try, I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Salad tonight, but it could easily dress a rice bowl or serve over salmon.
  • 1/4 cup tamari (can sub soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • dash of fish sauce (optional but highly recommended)
  • 1 garlic clove, grated (unless they are home grown, then maybe 1/4-1/2 a clove) :o)
  • 1″ ginger, grated
  • thinly sliced scallions

Put everything in a jar and shake vigorously – really vigorously. If you use warm water it will help loosen up the miso if it’s straight out of the fridge.

Drizzle lightly and grill – another sure fire winner.

This recipe came from our friend Alex – she is an amazing cook, and agreed to let me post it! #abcooks

Miso Herb Roasted Veg stock

The perfect base for any kind of soup – wonton tonight, laksa another night.

Cold dreary days lead to healing soups! Even the start of this, with the miso coated vegetables roasting in the oven promises great flavour. I promise you will feel like brighter days are coming by the time you finish this bowl of deliciousness. (Is that a word?)

  • 4 tbsp white miso paste
  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 3 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 sheet of dried seaweed (optional but recommended)
  • 1 large yellow onion, skin on, thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed clean and thinly sliced
  • 2 large celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 2 heads of garlic, cut in half, skins on
  • 4 inch knob of ginger, unpeeled, thinly sliced
  • 5 sprigs parsley (or any other herb you have around!)

To finish: juice of one lemon, salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 and cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl combine miso, oil and water, whisk to combine.

Place piece of seaweed and all prepared veg on the parchment and toss well with the miso mixture.

Roast for at least an hour, until veg are lightly browned.

Turn into a large stock pot, and cover with 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1-2 hours.

Strain the stock off, discard the vegetables (you’ve cooked all the goodness out of them!) and add in the juice of 1 lemon, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

This is delicious!!! I got it from the kitchen of Jillian Harris, she calls it Gut Healing Veggie Broth, and it is a sure fired winner.

Don’t you just know how good it is going to be already??
Once that miso gets tossed in there with it all and starts roasting your whole house smells fabulous.
The broth alone is a great starting place for amazing soups.
LAKSA – totally delicious with this stock.

Korean Kimchi Fritters

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I am really not certain about how authentically Korean these fritters (Pajeon – pancakes??) are, but anything with kimchi & bound together with some potato starch is a step in the right direction.

We loved the way this entire bunch of vegetables was quickly tied together in a very light batter that puffed up and was still so delicate.  Don’t miss out on the dipping sauce – its the perfect accompaniment.

PANCAKES/FRITTERS

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup potato starch (or 1/4 cup each white rice flour and cornstarch)
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup ice water
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup finely chopped kimchi
  • 4 cups finely chopped or grated mixed vegetables (carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, kale, whatever you’ve got)
  • 4 scallions, cut into 2-inch-long sections and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed or peanut oil, plus more as needed

DIPPING SAUCE

(highly recommend doubling it if you like dipping as much as we do)

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger or garlic (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil, plus more to taste
  • Pinch of granulated sugar

PREPARATION

  1. Prepare the pancakes: In a large bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, potato starch, salt and baking powder.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine water, egg and kimchi. Whisk kimchi mixture into flour mixture, and whisk until smooth. Fold in vegetables and about three-quarters of the scallions. (Save the rest for garnish.)
  3. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Scoop 1/4 cup portions of batter into the skillet, as many as will fit while not touching, flatten, and fry until dark golden on the bottom, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue to fry until other side is browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with a little more salt. Continue with remaining batter.
  4. Before serving, make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, vinegar, ginger or garlic (if using), sesame oil and sugar. Sprinkle sliced scallion over pancakes, and serve with dipping sauce on the side.

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When you start with a big bowl full of these colourful vegetables you just know it is going to be delicious!  Today I used zucchini, orange bell peppers, red onion and the leafy parts of Gai lan.

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don’t overcrowd your pan – these fritters need some room to crisp up and not steam

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These were so good I can’t wait to make them again!

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I served the fritters with Korean Gojuchang noodles, and while it was all finger licking delicious, the colours and textures just cried for something green and crunchy – maybe lightly stir fried broccoli?  Strange given that this whole meal is so vegetable forward, but I really wanted something light and crunchy to go with it all. Next time.

I found this recipe on NYT cooking, and couldn’t wait to try it.  The fritters are as versatile as the vegetables found in your garden or fridge.  I love the way red onions cook up, so used those in place of scallions in today’s effort.

 

Asian Chicken Mushroom Bowls with Peanut Sauce

So unlike me, but every so often I’m looking for a quick and easy dinner!  This hits all the notes with a delicious sauce, crunchy vegetables and the bright hit of those pickled vegetables – don’t skip them!

DD Chicken 5

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 (3.5-ounce) package shiitake mushrooms, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 head butter lettuce

or

  • stir fried vegetables
  • cooked rice

FOR THE PEANUT SAUCE

  • 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce, or more, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

QUICK PICKLED VEGETABLES

  • thinly sliced cucumbers & radishes
  • salt
  • vinegar (use what you have on hand, either white vinegar or rice wine vinegar

Thinly slice vegetables and place in non-reactive bowl.  Sprinkle with a little salt and then just cover with vinegar.  Set aside.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. To make the peanut sauce, whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, chili garlic sauce and ginger in a small bowl. Whisk in 2-3 tablespoons water until desired consistency is reached; set aside.
  2. Heat vegetable oil and sesame oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground chicken, mushrooms, carrot and shallot. Cook until browned, about 5-7 minutes, making sure to crumble the chicken as it cooks; drain excess fat.
  3. Stir in garlic and ginger until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Stir in hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce and fish sauce until heated through, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro.
  5. To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf, taco-style, drizzled with peanut sauce.

I’ve adapted (translate copied, but give credit where it is due!) this to a rice bowl from a Damn Delicious recipe for lettuce wraps …. if you haven’t been over to her site, treat yourself and go review a few recipes.   Needless to say we didn’t use carrots as Grant HATES cooked carrots so we just ignored that portion altogether.  Use whatever vegetables you have on hand to supplement the chicken mixture to create a colourful, delicious bowl.

DD chicken 2

Get everything ready to go, this all comes together so quickly.

DD chicken 3

Brown the chicken, mushrooms, onions, garlic and ginger, then stir in the sauce.

DD Chicken 6

Today’s vegetables were crunchy and delicious – use whatever you have on hand

 

DD Chicken 4

This takes only a few minutes to come together, so have your vegetables ready to go, and your rice cooked so you can put it all in your bowl within 20-30 minutes.

DD chicken 1

The leftovers are amazing in these fresh, soft pita’s I made.

Hot Tomato Feta Salad & Crispy Flatbread

Tomato Feta Salad 2
This could just as easily be an appetizer as a side dish ….tonight it was a side dish for our roasted chicken and it was delicious!  Super quick and easy, along with ingredients I love and that made it a total win.

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped, pitted Kalmata olives
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 8- to 10-ounce block feta
Crackers, flatbread*, pita chips, or crostini, for dipping

In a bowl, mix the tomatoes, olives, onion, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, oregano, olive oil and a few grinds of pepper.

Feel free to substitute the feta with haloumi, or goat cheese, either would be great.

On a grill: Heat your grill to medium-high. Set the feta block in the middle of a piece of foil. Pile the tomato mixture on top of the feta. Fold up the edges of the foil so that it will hold in any liquid as it cooks. Place the packet straight on a grill for 15 minutes to warm it through. Remove from grill and transfer to plate or serving dish.

In the oven: Heat oven to 400°F. Check to see that your dish is oven-proof. Place the block of feta in the middle of your dish. Pile the tomato mixture on top of the feta. Bake for 15 minutes.

Both methods: The feta will not melt, just warm and soften. Garnish with parsley and serve with crackers; eat immediately. As it cools, the feta will firm up again.

Flatbread 1

I’m guilty of poaching this recipe right off the Smitten Kitchen website, and if you haven’t visited that site, hop on over.  Deb Perelman has fantastic recipes, but even just her writing style is worth a read.

Flatbread 4

Can’t believe how good these are!  I had to use the herb I had on hand, so these are made with thyme, not rosemary.  Can’t wait to try with fresh rosemary out of my garden.

*Flatbread.  also from http://www.smittenkitchen.com

  • 1 3/4 cups (230 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary plus 2 (6-inch) sprigs (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil plus more for brushing
  • Flaky sea salt such as Maldon

Heat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet on rack in middle. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with olive oil.

Stir together flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder, and salt in a large, wide bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Use your hands to gently knead dough inside the bowl 4 or 5 times, until it comes together in a semi-smooth ball.

Divide dough into 3 large or 6 smaller pieces and roll out one piece at a time on an unfloured counter, to about 10-inch (for larger pieces of dough) or 7-inch rounds (smaller pieces) — shape can be rustic; dough should be thin. Lift flatbread onto prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. I can sometimes squeeze 6 small flatbreads on a half-sheet pan; sometimes I need to bake 1 to 2 in a second batch.

Lightly brush tops with additional oil and scatter small clusters of rosemary leaves on top (if using), pressing in slightly. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating flatbreads if needed on the pan for even color. Let cool then break into pieces.

I cut mine into triangles before baking, and they came out perfectly.  Read the full Smitten Kitchen recipe for more ideas, you will be happy you did.

Buttermilk Ranch Dip or Dressing

Veg

Vegetables first!  The kids absolutely love a big platter of fresh vegetables, but this ranch dressing really makes it a favourite.  Ready for them to arrive from the ski hill today and this platter will disappear in minutes.

This is the best creamy dressing to have on hand for those hungry moments. .. … or when the kids are arriving home from school or the ski hill.  In general, we prefer vinaigrette’s for salad dressing, but this is so comforting and delicious we love it too.

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (you could use regular milk but I like the tang from buttermilk)
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp each dried basil, oregano & parsley (in the summer of course fresh is best)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice (according to your own taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Give the whole thing a good mix and allow to sit long enough for all the seasonings to fully wake up and join the party.  This is perfect as a dip, for a salad dressing I would thin it out a bit with either a bit more buttermilk or even a touch of water.

 

Yams with Miso Tahini Sauce

Slow roasting yams bring them to another flavour level entirely!  The skin gets lightly charred in spots, and the insides get creamier and smoother than ever.  Normally I love yams with just a simple touch …. butter, salt and pepper.  Lately I’ve been seeing recipes for a version that included a Miso Tahini dressing in place of the butter.  Given that I love all three ingredients, I decided to give it a taste test.  Instant winner – so delicious.

Miso Tahini

I had some cilantro around so tossed a bit of that over top as well.

How easy is this?  Dead simple.

Mix with a fork in a small bowl until smooth.

  •  2 Tbsp. tahini
  • 2 Tbsp. miso (I used white)
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil

Garnish:

  • thinly sliced scallions
  • toasted sesame seeds

Wash and poke yams with a fork.  Give them a little love by massaging them with olive oil – season with salt and pepper.  Cook yams at 375 degrees until super soft and lightly charred.  (how long will depend on the size, have you ever noticed the variance??). You could also cut them into a few irregular pieces, toss in olive oil and bake on a tray, which would be faster.  Count on at least an hour though.

When deliciously soft, split open, season again with salt and pepper – scoop on the sauce and sprinkle over the scallions and sesame seeds.  Absolutely satisfying.

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!