Category Archives: Blogs with cooking tips

Pan Con Tomate– it just SOUNDS good

photo by Tad Seaborn

photo by Tad Seaborn

It’s getting close to Friday which at our house means we’re running out of food, and I’m running out of ideas and energy.

Enter tomatoes on toast–which sounds much nicer being called Pan Con Tomate.  Thanks to the Spanish for this recipe–you literally toast some buns, rub with a garlic cloves and add some tomato pulp.  But the sum of the parts…….oh boy!!

Recipe details here at the Globe and Mail, Quick Fix.

YUM!  (and with Manchego– even more so)

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Easy Pickled Cherries for Your Charcuterie Board

Home made pickled cherries in a jiff!  Photo by tad Seaborn

Home made pickled cherries in a jiff! Photo by Tad Seaborn

Why pickle pickles when you can pickle cherries? I know, I know you pickle cucumbers but it flowed better.  Anyway, this jar of pickled cherries has disappeared fast—with pate, with cheese, on burgers—-and so simple to make.  Pitting the 2 cups of cherries will be a slight pain in the butt, yet still speedy.  Honest.

And they’re ready to serve once chilled.  So you can enjoy them the same day–the same afternoon even.  After your workout that you didn’t want to do,  or once you’ve finished reading the last chapter in your book club novel (that being a reminder that I need to read some novels).

Ingredients  (recipe from my Quick Fix piece in the Globe)

2 cups (about 350g) pitted cherries

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3/4 cups water

1/8 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

pinch of chili flakes

sprig of rosemary

Method

Prepare 2 cups (about 350g) pitted cherries. In a small pot combine 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 3/4 cups water, 1/8 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns. Add a pinch of chili flakes if desired. Bring to a boil. Add in the cherries and a sprig of rosemary and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Scoop the cherries into a sealable container (they will fit a 500 ml mason jar) and top up with the pickling liquid. Allow to cool slightly and refrigerate. They’re ready to serve once cold and will last in the fridge for a few weeks.

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Gourmet Jelly Shots-French Martini Style

Quivering delights of drunkenness

photos by Tad Seaborn

I was dubious.  Gourmet jelly shots.  I even skipped these in university in lieu of the much cooler and more sanitary mixing of a garbage can of Purple Jesus  (Go Gaels!).

But when we decided to try them for The Lazy Gourmet I was pleasantly surprised.  They were kind of fun.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 10.13.27 PM

There are many sites dedicated to beautiful versions of these like the Jelly Shot Test Kitchen or this pretty cool Jello Shot Pinterest page.  So I did a bit of research based on other people’s trial and error  (oh happy day when I can call a jelly shot recipe “research”).  I tried to make sure I added enough gelatine so they held together but were not gummy bear in chewy-ness.  I also wanted to initially try a clear jelly shot (very cool) but found the alcohol a bit overwhelming so came up with this take on the French Martini which includes fresh pineapple juice.

And I am not kidding when I say be careful how many sips you take to taste and adjust flavours when you mix them, they pack a wallop.  (It’s inconvenient to pass out mid-research.)

CHAMBORD AND PINEAPPLE JELLY SHOTS

Ingredients

1 cup raspberry vodka

1/4 cup Chambord

1 1/2 cups pineapple juice, divided

Fresh lemon.

1/3 cup simple syrup (bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil until the sugar dissolves; cool before using)

3 packs (15 millilitres each) gelatin

1/2 cup hot water

16 raspberries

Method

In a medium bowl combine raspberry vodka, Chambord, 1 cup pineapple juice and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Add simple syrup and take a sip to see if you like the balance of sweetness and tang from the lemon. Set aside.

In another bowl, pour 1/2 cup pineapple juice and sprinkle 3 gelatin on top. Add hot water (from the kettle) and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Add to the vodka mixture and whisk to combine. Pour into an 8-inch-by-8-inch glass dish. Chill in the fridge until the mixture starts to thicken (about 10 minutes) and then add 16 raspberries, spacing them out so it will be easy to divide 1 raspberry per jelly shot. Refrigerate overnight.

To serve, prepare a glass of hot water. Dip a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter into the hot water before cutting around each raspberry. Twist the circle cutter around the jelly for a clean cut, and push gently side to side to peel it from the bottom of the dish before removing. You should get about 16 one-ounce pieces.

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Making Saag Paneer with guest hostess Johanne Durocher

Saag Paneer for dinner-YUM!

I am absolutely thrilled to have my friend Johanne do a guest blog for me!  She has so much going on and yet made time for Cheese and Toast.  Her bio and pic (including a pic of donuts) is here and her blog Fashion in Motion is a fave–not only because of the fabulous content but I love Johanne’s witty and fun writing style.  You shall see as you read from this point on…..  ENJOY, SR.

As a gal who likes to improvise in the dressing room and in the kitchen, following a recipe to the letter is an exercise in restraint. I can’t resist substitutions, additions, modifications. I’ll use a silicone spatula instead of a wooden spoon. I’m such a rebel. Cue the music: I did it my way.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve always enjoyed cooking Indian food: it’s so flexible to adding more of this, less of that, turn up the heat or throw in an extra veg. But every now and again and I take on a new recipe and force-feed myself a little discipline. I do my best to follow it to the letter and not dispute salting the water or measuring only one teaspoon of vanilla.

And so it was with this in mind that I rolled up my sleeves and made Saag Paneer. Most people look shocked and a little scared when I tell them I made Saag Paneer. It is fitting that we reveal the mystery of the saag right here right now.

I followed the recipe here at Active For Life and it boasts a healthy take on the Indian classic. Having made Indian dishes before, I thought, piece of cake. It is very easy- but not necessarily a project I recommend undertaking on a weeknight unless you’re up to eating at 9pm. It will be an event: so pour yourself a drink and start washing your spinach.

I set a very large pot of salted water to boil and while that was heating up, I washed and dried just over two pounds of fresh spinach. That in itself took a long time and when I make this recipe again, I may just buy it pre-washed.

Fresh Spinach

I prepared just over two pounds of fresh spinach that I chopped into 3-inch long segments

Before blanching the spinach, I coarsely chopped it in half or thirds depending on the length of the leaves. I figured that this way when I would blend them there wouldn’t be a chance of having long strings of spinach filaments- imagined or real, the anticipation caused a coarse chop (see- I just can’t help myself throw in extra steps.)

Okay, when the water is at a full boil you drop your spinach in it, stir to get it all wet and then you wait and watch with the lid off (helps tremendously).

Spinach in Water

Blanching spinach is easy- just let the water come back to a boil and you’re done

When the water begins to boil again, strain the spinach and discard the water. In my case, I was hesitating about blanching it all at once because I had so much spinach and perhaps had not chosen a large enough pot, so I blanched in batches. To do this, just delicately scoop out the blanched spinach from the water and let the water come back to a roaring boil before throwing in the next batch. Worked really well for me.

Blanched spinach

The goal of blanching is to soften the spinach, not kill it to mush

After that bring in the high-powered machine: blend the spinach in a food processor at high speed. It won’t be super smooth so you’ll want to add water at the rate of one tablespoon at a time, then blend again, then add water until it’s looking smooth to you. It won’t be like a creamy-smooth, but it should be well-blended and the spinach particles quite small. No chunks, no filaments.

Food Processor

I was using my mini-food processor and had to blend my spinach in batches. See? Anything is possible

After that comes the fun stuff: on medium heat, melt 2 tbsp of butter in a large pan with high sides. Add ¾ tsp of cumin seeds and cook until slightly browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Careful not to let these babies burn. Add 1 diced cooking onion and sauté until golden, roughly 10 minutes. Stir in 3 cloves of grated garlic and 2 tea spoons of grated ginger root. Cook for one minute.

Onion and Cumin

By this time it will smell so good in your house you’ll be thinking you can do this

When the onions are nice and golden, stir in ¼ cup of cilantro finely chopped, ½ tsp each of salt, ground coriander and turmeric. Stir in ¼ tsp of cinnamon and cook 30 seconds until fragrant. Add ½ cup of fresh chopped tomatoes and cook until they reduce and break down, roughly 5 minutes.

Paneer in Pan

I made the execute chef decision to pan-fry the paneer cubes at this step in the game

Set aside the tomato mixture in a bowl and return the frying pan to the stove, adding one teaspoon of oil and set that to medium heat. Dice 1 package of paneer into bite-sized cubes and add that to your hot pan. I added two cloves of grated garlic to them and flipped the cubes until golden crispy on two or more sides and then pulled those aside. This paneer-frying is a deviation that is perfectly acceptable (weeks later I discussed this with chef Vikram Vij who said it’s okay, but you can also just add your paneer later as the recipe instructs and that way it will be more melt-y, less-cube-y in texture. Your choice.).

Golden Paneer

Mmm paneer- a pressed cheese much like cottage cheese brick and commonly used in Indian cooking. I didn’t make the paneer and you don’t have to, either; it’s found at most large supermarkets.

I returned my pan to the heat and picked up where I left off: in it went the tomato mixture which I brought back to medium heat while stirring, and then added the reserved spinach. Cook for 3 minutes.

Spinach and Tomato

See me using a wooden spoon! I’m not breaking all the recipe rules

After that you should be looking at it and asking yourself if the mixture is saucy. If too thick, add water a few tablespoons at a time and stir. Stir in 1/3 cup of plain yogurt (I used fat-free Greek yogurt and threw in a little extra), the paneer cubes, and 2 tsp of lemon juice.

Yogurt Paneer

Watching this coming together is like waiting for the finale to a figure skating routine and you will get a quad

Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover, cut the heat, stir and admire your work.

FInal Saag Paneer

Ta-da! It will be magic and even the international judges will give you full points

Serve with rice or naan bread, or in my case, eat it straight up with a side of Panch Churan chutney (see top photo).

Thoughts on leftovers….

For me it was the best on the night-of, the leftovers were delicious but the creaminess never matched the same bliss as when the sauce came out of the pan. Chef Vikram Vij told me that flavours will intensify over time, too.

Come over here to see the full instructions to make this Saag Paneer and feel like an Indian figure-skating sensation.

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Baby Potatoes with Normandy Butter and Roquefort …at midnight?

Roquefort and Fingerling Potatoes

It midnight–past midnight.  And I was checking email when I found this picture on my desk top.  It’s from a Lazy Gourmet piece I did a few weeks ago for the Globe.  OK, I may not make at 1 am in the morning but I am seriously thinking I might make it tomorrow night for some girlfriends coming over.   YUM.

Ingredients

Red fingerling potatoes (four to five per person)

Normandy butter (about a teaspoon, melted, per serving)

Fleur de Sel

Roquefort (about 100 g, crumbled)

Screen Shot 2013-03-23 at 12.47.44 AM

Method

Try to find red-skinned fingerling potatoes – they add a burst of colour to the plate. Allow for four to five whole fingerlings per person and drop them into a pot of salted cold water, then bring to a simmer. Cook until fork tender and drain. Cut in half lengthwise and arrange on a platter. Drizzle with enough melted Normandy butter to flavour each wedge (about a teaspoon per serving) and sprinkle with Fleur de Sel. Crumble room temperature Roquefort over the dish (about 100g for four people, adjust to your own cheesy taste). Serve immediately.

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The words “Cookie Exchange” need not cause a panic attack

PIC 2 Final Squares 2

It’s that time of year!  Expect an email with subject: Cookie Exchange! to pop-up in the INBOX.  Do not leap back in fear as one does from email chain letters that promise certain death (sent from you favourite Aunt).  Instead be the first to say YES, I will do it.  Cookie exchanges are actually a lot of fun and if you make these simple 7-Layer squares (errr..cookies) your end of the deal will be sealed and sliced in no time.  No flour involved.

Add coconut

If you can layer things like shredded coconut  (notice a child doing it)..

chocolate chips..

or chocolate chips….

and drizzle with condensed milk (you may need to know how to open a can at this point)

You can end up with this….

Just out of the oven!

All these pics are pulled from more specific directions on my Family Fun blog for foodnetwork.ca.  Just click HERE to go there for the recipe.  If you have a non stick pan that is the best way to go, but I just used a ceramic casserole dish.

PIC 1 Final Squares 1

And I’d love to hear if there are any classic 7 layer (or 5 layer or 9 layer) cookies in your holiday repertoire!

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Delicious Roasted Pumpking Seeds (that I was too lazy to make myself)

All these years I passed up on this???

Every year we carve multiple pumpkins and every year I think, “I should really roast the seeds”.  But that is a fleeting thought as I look at the goo-covered, stringy harvest.  And into the green bin it goes.  But not this year!  This year there was Donna.

Pumpkin Carving Contest chez nous

We held a pumpkin carving contest for Felix’s 4th birthday and had a few friends over.  And we also had the innards of 10 pumpkins.  Donna suggested we roast them and give them away as loot bags.  She even offered to come over early to scoop them out and do all the dirty work.  An offer even a lazy scooper like me could not refuse.

See what you’re pulling the seeds out of?  Though I admit that in a strange way once you sink your hands into the goop it feels kind of nice.

The harvest

Once Donna had pulled them out of the pumpkin she rinsed them and cleaned them in a strainer and got off all the stringy bits.  This is the hard work part.

Boiling the pumpkin seeds

Once clean the seeds were boiled in a large pot for 10-15 minutes in well-salted water.  This helps ensure a crunchier seed once roasted.

We then spread the seeds onto a couple baking trays and dried them with some paper towels.  Not bone-dry but you want them dry enough that olive oil will stick to them.

We then put the seeds back into a bowl and tossed them with 1 teaspoon olive oil for 1 cups seeds ( approx.) Since we had so many seeds we flavoured them.

Donna came with some Kernel shakers and we did various batches; a Kosher salt batch, dill, cheddar cheese and all-dressed.   We sprinkled on the topping generously (you can also use paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper or curry powder plus salt).

We  then we lay them on clean parchment and roasted them at 375°F for about 30-40 minutes (less if you have fewer seeds, you want them golden and crispy).  We tossed every 10 minutes or so.  Be vigilant as they can burn easily.  You can turn the over to °350 if you feel you may be distracted (aka Donna is not doing your work).

While we waited there were some antics like this:

Dancing Dollar Store Monster

And of course, this:

Classic Halloween Alien

The seeds came out in batches and we let them cool…

Pumpkin Seeds sorted for loot bags

And I am now munching away on the wonderful bounty of crunchy, flavourful snacks and  I swear to Never, Ever, Ever (on Taylor Swift’s life) throw out Pumpkin Seeds again!

Yes, I always have fall foliage on my cutting board.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!!!

PS  If you have any opinions of boiling vs not boiling and the difference it does or does not make please let me know!  And see the comments for a non-boiling recipe from Lisa that she used and it worked great.

 

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