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.
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
1c white wine (or, if you don’t want to use alcohol, skip it and add 8 cups of water instead of splitting it)
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!
Of the many popular cuisines of the world, I am admittedly uneducated about Greek cuisine. I can tell you the basics, but beyond that I am sadly ignorant. A little while ago I came across a great Greek-centric blog, Kalofagas – Greek Food & Beyond. I had the chance to chat with Peter Minaki, the man behind the food, about his passion and his wonderful new cookbook, Everything Mediterranean. Over espresso-boosted drinks, Peter told me about having to fend for himself in the kitchen when his parents would go on vacation to Greece and that while barbecuing was all well and good, it got repetitive after a while. He started experimenting with Greek classics and discovered he had a real talent for it.
Fast forward to the 2000’s and Peter is ready for a change from the world of finance. His blog is already up and running with a solid following. He gives up his job in 2011 to cook Greek food full-time. He begins to set up supper clubs for 30-60 guests per event in the GTA that become increasingly popular and lo and behold, a cookbook publisher comes calling! Over a summer, he and his partner test and draft a few versions of 300+ recipes and Everything Mediterranean is born.
The book is a thorough and detailed journey through Greek cuisine ranging from the popular dishes (souvlaki, moussaka, grilled octopus, baklava) to the less obvious pistachio-crusted halibut, bianko, pastourma pie and, a dish that aroused my curiosity, feta cheesecake. Each recipe has an easy, step-by-step guide and, should you want it, nutritional information. I made the slow-cooked pork chops in white wine and they came out fabulously. I’m told the maple-crusted lamb and olive oil fries are must-tries. Meanwhile, that feta cheesecake is calling to me…
Would you like to get your own copy of Peter’s book? Check it out over on Amazon! It would make a great Christmas gift for the foodies on your list!
I received the cookbook refresh for my birthday and I’ve been debating what healthy, vegan recipe to make first. The book contains a variety of recipes from breakfast through dessert, sauces, shakes and more. Finally settling on the Energy Rice Bowl, I set to work prepping the curried garbanzo filling. (side note: I really wanted to name our dog “Garbanzo.” J was having none of it. Buzzkill.) I adapted the recipes a bit to utilize what I had on hand also to my taste but it’s essentially the same. It’s filling, it’s healthy, it’s vegan and it’s great. Once the prep is done, you toss everything in a pan and in less than 10 minutes, dinner is ready. Hard to argue with that!
2 tb extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled & finely diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced (remove the seeds if you want less heat)
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tb cumin
1 tb salt
1 tb turmeric
1 tb oregano
4 c cooked chick peas, rinsed
1/2 c tomato paste
2 c cooked rice
1/2 English cucumber, peeled & diced
handful cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 green onions or 1/2 red onion, finely diced
4 tb tahini
drizzle of Sriracha
1. Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a sauce pan. Add the vegetables and spices and cook until soft.
2. Mash the chick peas and toss into the pan with the tomato paste. Stir together and cook until heated through.
3. Serve over rice and top with cucumber, tomato and diced onion. Drizzle with tahini and Sriracha.
A few months ago a friend mentioned to me that she’d picked up a fantastic new cookbook and thought that I’d get a kick out of it. It’s very difficult for me NOT to buy cookbooks, so when one is recommended I’m probably going to get it. In this case, the book is The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century and it is a doozy. Over 900 pages long, it is a compilation of the best recipes published in the history of the NYT newspaper. Each recipe features a short, entertaining and enlightening blurb about its history, the cook who created it and why it was chosen over other possible submissions.
I have now gone through many of the hundreds and hundreds of recipes and have chosen a few that I want to tackle up front:
- lemon chicken
- shredded Brussels sprouts with bacon & pine nuts
- roasted cauliflower
- arctic char with ancho-shallot butter
- steamed fish with thyme and tomato vinaigrette
- sauteed cod with potatoes in chorizo mussel broth
- salmon cakes with yogurt chipotle sauce
- Thai beef noodle salad
- herb-crusted broiled lamb chops
- marinated flank steak with Asian slaw
- Malaysian-inspired pork stew
- cucumber, tomato and avocado soup
…and that’s just to start. First on the list will be the lemon chicken. I’m already very comfortable with roasting a bird and have been looking for a new recipe, so lemon chicken it is! I will be posting each recipe to see if it lived up to expectations. If anyone else out there has the book, has tried a recipe and liked it (or otherwise), let me know!
I was lucky enough to win a shopping spree at Chapters a year ago and one of the first things on my list was a plethora of cookbooks. They’re like crack to me. I bought books on baking, on Jamaican, Italian and southern American food and so on. One book that wasn’t initially on my list but has subsequently become my favourite cookbook of all time (sorry, Joy of Cooking. I’m sure this is blasphemy in many circles) is Julie Albert & Lisa Gnat’s fantastic Bite Me.
This book pulls off the feat of not taking itself seriously – at all – while providing incredibly delicious, accessible recipes. I have yet to make anything from this book that did not meet with rave reviews. Their Cranberry-Mango-Toasted-Pecan salad (found here!) with Dijon dressing was an instant classic. Salads can be pretty blah as, let’s face it, they are often an afterthought. But I guarantee that no one will forget this dish. It takes a little bit of time to sugar the pecans, but the most work involved in this dish is cutting up the mango…which takes all of 2 or 3 minutes. Equally winning were the Apple Muffins with Streusel topping that I brought to a friend’s birthday brunch.
Bite Me is full of hilarious pictures, playlist suggestions for prep work, food quotes and, most importantly, page after page of flavorful, manageable recipes. I made the Herb-Encrusted Beef Tenderloin a while back which, unsurprisingly, came out beautifully despite my own timing issues. (Apparently converting cooking times isn’t my strong suit, but it all worked out in the end!) I can’t recommend it highly enough for cooks of all skill levels. My husband has promised me that he’s going to tackle the Chocolate-Crusted Creamy Caramel Cheesecake. Given the success of the previous dishes, I’m sure it will disappear within hours.