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Slop, Sloppy Joes

13 Oct

It’s cooling off, thank goodness, which means I am back in the kitchen! The brutal heat of this Toronto summer kept me from really digging in and trying new dishes, often opting for easy sandwiches, wraps and salads that didn’t involve, y’know, moving or turning anything on. But all that is behind us now, so back to hanging out at the stove making tasty dishes!

This recipe makes an enormous pot of Sloppy Joes, one of my favourite things to eat when I was younger. When we were kids, my grandmother would make them when we were up at the cottage and it was such fun to eat this messy, saucy sandwich! It fed a whole whack of grandkids and this recipe will certainly feed a hungry crowd with leftovers. I froze what we didn’t eat in the first couple of days for handy weeknight oh-man-what-am-I-gonna-feed-this-family moments.

Ingredients

2 tb vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, diced
2 sweet peppers, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
2 heaping tb of chili powder
2 tb cumin
1 tb salt
2 packages ground beef
2 796ml cans diced tomatoes
2 156ml cans tomato paste
1 tb red wine vinegar

rolls, hamburger buns
hot sauce, optional
shredded cheese, optional

Directions

1. Heat the oil in the largest pot you have to medium heat. A Dutch oven would be perfect for this, but a pasta pot would do!
2. Toss in the onion, garlic, peppers and celery. Cook until softened, occasionally stirring, roughly 10 minutes.
3. Stir in the chili powder, cumin and salt. Cook for an additional minute, allowing the flavours to brighten.
4. Add the two packages of ground beef, breaking it up as you go. You don’t want to brown the meat here as it will only make it tough, so make sure you keep stirring things around.
5. Once all the pink is gone from the beef, add in the tomatoes, tomato paste and vinegar. Give everything a good stir and simmer for a few more minutes. Give it a taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
6. Pile a heaping scoop – or two – on to a soft bun. Top with hot sauce and/or shredded cheese if you so desire!

joes

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Braised Pork Stew

27 Jan

Because I just can’t stop buying cookbooks, Michael Smith’s latest, Family Meals, has appeared on my shelf. I’ve always liked Smith: he was my gateway into cooking fish for the first time and his recipes (while sometimes a bit short on the salt for my taste) never fail me. I like his philosophy that a recipe is simply somewhere to start, a thing to be played with, an idea upon which to expound. I feel the same way: when I come across a new recipe, I’ll generally leave the fundamentals alone but will alter things like seasoning and heat levels to suit my taste.

This particular book has some fantastic slow cooker recipes and quite a few vegetarian recipes that look enticing. I tried out the slow-cooked pork shoulder stew this weekend it’s a keeper. We added a few dashes of hot sauce to our bowls but kept it out of the main pot to avoid burning foodNURDling’s little tongue. It’s a simple recipe that doesn’t have a ton of ingredients. It’s hearty, filling and healthy. This recipe also makes a TON so you will definitely have leftovers. Cook once, eat many times. Works for me.

Serves 4

Ingredients

3lb pork shoulder, halved
salt & pepper
2 tb vegetable oil
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 potatoes, chopped
2 carrots, peeled & chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 ts dried thyme and/or rosemary
2 ts salt
7c water
1c white wine (or, if you don’t want to use alcohol, skip it and add 8 cups of water instead of splitting it)

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 300F.
2. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan (a Dutch oven is perfect) to medium-high heat. Add the oil and watch for it become shimmery. Season the pork generously with salt & pepper and the two pieces of pork to the pan, searing on all sides until nicely browned.
3. Add in the celery, potatoes, carrots, onions, herbs, salt and liquid. Bring to a simmer. Cover with  a tightly-fitting lid and place in the oven for 3-4 hours.
4. Remove the pot from the oven. The pork will now be fork-tender; shred or cube the meat. Serve and enjoy!

Salbutes

24 Nov

This is one of my absolute favourite Belizean dishes to make. I first tried them years ago when J’s mom made them for dinner. Instantly hooked. As with many local specialties, everyone makes them just a bit differently and everyone claims their (or their mom’s) way is best. The basics, though: crunchy fried tortillas topped with shredded chicken or pork. The toppings and sauces are totally up to the cook: pickled onions, salsa verde, avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream, green onion, sliced jalapeno, and cilantro are all popular options. We do ours with thinly sliced avocado, shredded chicken simmered in salsa verde, sour cream, green onion, cilantro and a bit of hot sauce. You can include or omit just about any of the ingredients listed above: it’s truly about your own personal taste. We usually roast a whole chicken so we have leftovers for the rest of the week and shred both wings, a thigh and a breast. (Tip: take the skin off and save it to add when you’re dressing the tortillas. You want it to be crispy.) You could also poach chicken breasts in spice-tinged water – salt, pepper and oregano would be a nice combo.

This recipe makes 10. Two of us can polish that off but we are very full afterward.

Ingredients

10 tostadas (or 10 tortillas, fried)
2 chicken breasts or equivalent, cooked & shredded
1 c salsa verde
2 avocados, sliced
salt & pepper
lime juice
3 green onions, sliced
1 handful cilantro, finely chopped
sour cream
hot sauce, optional

Directions

1. Warm up your tostadas in the oven at a low temp. They have a high oil content, so make sure you keep an eye on them ensuring they don’t burn.
2. Heat up the salsa in a sauce pan til it simmers. Add in the chicken and stir. Allow chicken to warm through, 5-8 minutes.
3. Divide the avocado slices evenly among the warmed tostadas then season with salt, pepper and lime juice. Layer on the chicken, sprinkle with green onions and cilantro. Top with dollops of sour cream and, if you wish, dabs of hot sauce.

photo

Vietnamese Pork & Vegetable Lettuce Cups

5 Jun

With the weather taking a turn for the better, the desire to eat a little lighter has kicked in. These lettuce cups are a little bit labour intensive – nothing hard, just a lot of vegetable chopping – but they pack a lot of flavour in each bite. The sauce is salty and spicy; the filling is crunchy and satisfying. The recipe is very adaptable: you can make it vegetarian, spicier, milder, switch up the fillings, use tortillas instead of lettuce, etc. You can certainly substitute the pork for turkey, chicken or beef and use whatever vegetables you have in the fridge.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

3 tb vegetable oil
1/2 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sweet peppers, diced
3 carrots, diced
handful mushrooms, chopped
1/2 bunch asparagus, diced
1 pkg ground pork
4 ts chili paste (I used sambal oelek)
2 tb fish sauce
2 ts brown sugar
juice of 3 limes, zest of 1 lime
1 head of butter lettuce, washed & separated
1 bunch of mint leaves, torn

Directions

1. Heat 1tb of oil in a large pan or a wok to medium-high heat. Add in the garlic and 2ts of chili paste. Sauté for 1 minute.
2. Add in the pork, onion, peppers and carrots. Break up the pork with a wooden spoon. Cook 5 minutes and then add in the mushrooms and asparagus. Cook 3-4 more minutes until the pork is no longer pink. Allow it to cool a bit.
3. In the meantime, whisk together the remaining oil, chili paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice & zest in a small bowl. Set aside.
4. Scoop the filling into the lettuce cups, then top with some sauce and garnish with mint. Should you like your food on the spicy side, you can also top with a little more chili paste or hot sauce.

Three Ways to Make an Audience Hungry

17 Apr

To find oneself sitting in a studio on a nearly-empty stomach with Michael Bonacini, Massimo Capra and Jason Parsons is a bit torturous. The smells wafting forth from the stove over the course of 30 minutes are pretty intoxicating. J and I sat through the taping of a Cityline show featuring the three chefs using a variety of fresh herbs, wishing we could sneak up and steal bites off the plates. Chef Bonancini featured rosemary in a beautiful branzino dish; chef Capra made a creative BBQ pork and chive pancake; and chef Parsons used chervil in a light lamb loin dish.

Chef Capra and me

Chef Capra and me

Chef Bonacini and I...just hangin'  with some herbs.

Chef Bonacini and me…just hangin’ with some herbs.

In addition to the plates the chefs put up, the show discussed planting various herbs for use at home. We have sage, thyme and lemon thyme ready to go and a basil plant that has miraculously lived for months on our windowsill (apparently I left my black thumb of death back at our old apartment!). This show got me motivated to get out into my garden – now that I have one – and plant some rosemary, mint and maybe some chives, too!

herbs

The beautiful array of greenery on display.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some planting and cooking to get to..

Mexican Pot Roast Tacos!

4 Nov

I finally got around to buying a Dutch oven, something I’ve been promising myself for months. (Yes, I promise myself kitchen toys.) The great thing about Dutch ovens is that they function like a giant cast iron pan: they retain heat beautifully. You can get them nice and hot so you can sear your meat properly, but then you can turn the heat way down and make all sorts of tasty meals in just one pot. I lugged that sucker home and picked up beautiful beef blade roast from a wonderful butcher just a few blocks from the house. (Royal Beef – check ’em out if you’re in the neighbourhood!) This is a great cut of meat for low-‘n’-slow cooking and so it was perfect for these tacos. I adapted the recipe from Tyler Florence, a foodNURD fave, and it was delicious as usual. We had enough leftover for snacks the next day, always a bonus!

Serves 2.

Ingredients

1lb shoulder/blade beef roast
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tb extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tb chile powder
2 tb cayenne pepper
2 tb cumin
3 bay leaves
2 dashes hot sauce, optional

Directions

1. Generously salt and pepper all sides of the beef.
2. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or heavy duty pot with a tight lid) on high. Add in the garlic and sear the beef, getting a nice crust on all sides.
3. Toss in the onions and cook til they’re softened and lightly browned, roughly 3-4 minutes.
4. Add in the tomatoes, 1 can of water, spices and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add in enough water (again) to cover the beef.

Happily simmering away…

5. Cover the pot, lower the heat and let simmer for 3-4 hours, until the beef is tender. Allow the beef to cool in the liquid.
6. Shred with a fork and serve with warm tortillas, guacamole, cilantro, pickled red onions and salsa.

Ready to be eaten!

Cochinita Pibil (Slow-Roasted Pork)

23 May

This one is all on Eat St. I was at home watching it and one of the food trucks had their version of cochinita pibil, a traditional Mexican shredded pork dish. For me, shopping for the ingredients was as much fun as making it. I headed off to Wychwood Barns on Saturday to get the pork from my fave farmers at Marvellous Edibles. (Best. Bacon. Ever. Go try it, people.)  Then it was off to St. Clair West to La Tortilleria for fresh tortillas and the achiote paste. It is imperative that you not substitute the achiote paste for anything else:  it is the dominant flavour in the dish. If you can get your hands on banana leaves, so much the better as the pork is traditionally cooked in them. Having said that, foil will work.

Best to get this started the day before you want to cook it. The pork should marinate in the fridge for 6-24 hours, but no more than 24 hours as the enzymes in the citrus juices will break down the meat too far and give it an unpleasant texture. It also takes 3 – 4 hours to cook, so ensure you’ve left yourself enough time to cook it!

Serves 4.

Ingredients

3lb pork shoulder, cut into 2″ pieces (do not trim fat)
1c orange juice
1/2c lime juice, (4-5 limes)
1 ts salt
3 oz of red achiote paste (also called “annato paste”)
Pickled red onions (optional), for garnish
1c cilantro, chopped, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

Directions

1. Blend together the paste, salt, orange and lime juices in a blender. (Make sure you rinse out your blender quickly as the paste will stain.) In a non-reactive bowl, combine the marinade and the pork pieces. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for 6 – 24 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a large casserole with a triple layer of regular foil – you want a good seal. Pour in the pork and the marinade and close the foil tightly. Put the casserole in the oven and bake 3.5 hours. At this point, remove from the oven and check to see if the meat is falling apart. If so, you’re done! If you think it could use a little more time, put it back in for 30 minutes.
3. When the pork is tender, take it out of the oven and open the foil. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl, then shred it with two forks.  If necessary, pour some of the remaining sauce over the pork to make sure it’s juicy.
4. Serve with either fresh tortillas or rice. For garnish, add lime wedges, cheese, avocado, cilantro and/or pickled onions.

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