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Saturday, 14 February 2015

Asiago and Mushroom Tart

A friend and I went to a "cooking class" at my local Longo's grocery store this week.  It wasn't a hands on class, but we were given instructions and recipes from local chef, Christopher Pires and watched as he prepared an Asiago & Mushroom Tart, grilled flank steak with mushroom sauce, butternut squash puree, and a fruit cheesecake.

Pictured is the appetizer that he prepared for us. Served with an arugula salad with balsamic glaze.  I am usually not very good at planning or executing appetizers, so I was quite happy to learn this one as it was tasty and very easy to do.  Next time I have company, this will be my go-to. It can also be made as an onion tart instead of mushrooms by using caramelized onions.  Or a combination of mushrooms and onions.

Below is the recipe he gave to us, and you can find more of his recipes at www.foodinspires.com

Asiago & Mushroom Tart
Recipe by Christopher Pires

  • 1 pkg puff pastry (long rolls)
  • 1 cup Asiago cheese grated
  • 2 cups assorted mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chili flakes (optional)
  • 4 gloves garlic mashed
  • salt & pepper to taste
Cooking Directions
  1. Thaw puff pastry in the fridge overnight or on the counter for about 30 minutes. Leave in the wrapping, but out of the package.
  2. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 400.
  4. Heat a heavy frying pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil& butter. Stir in garlic and chili flakes stirring for 15-30 seconds.
  5. Add mushrooms. Reduce heat and continue cooking until all the water has been released from the mushrooms.
  6. Unroll the puff pastry and pinch an edge all around. Poke holes all over the sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese, then cover with the mushrooms.
  9. Put back in the oven until cheese is melted, about another 5 minutes.
  10. Cut tart into squares, and then half again to make triangles.
  11. Can be served with arugula or spinach salad drizzled with balsamic glaze.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Ribs with a Slow Cooker

I've tried different ways of cooking ribs.  I've tried baking, BBQing, and boiling.  None of these methods gave me the result I wanted.  They were often tough, or stringy, or just not flavourfull.  I also tried the cooking them in the slow cooker.  This method made the ribs nice and tender, but eating them directly out of the slow cooker, made them lack the nice BBQ flavour and outside crispiness that I wanted in my ribs.

I finally discovered that if I cooked them in the slow cooker first, to get the tender pork I wanted, and then cooked a few minutes longer,using another method like the BBQ or quickly baked in the oven, I got the best of both worlds.  Below is the recipe that works for  me.

Note: Using different "tenderizing" ingredients (liquids with carbonation)  can give you different tastes.  I usually go with what I have in my kitchen.

My preference is to use beer - Guinness works really well with ribs.  I've also used Coke and club soda.  This time, I was given Q Ginger - a spicy ginger ale found in some grocery stores (Whole Foods carries it in Canada).  There was defenately a different flavour using this product, but you can use whatever bubbles you want to experiment with.

(Sorry a couple of the pictures turned out blurry, but you can still get the gist.)

Pork Ribs Slow Cooker & Oven

  • 1 large pork rib
  • 1/2 cup bottled BBQ sauce (or use recipe below)
  • 2 bottles Q Ginger Ale
  • OR 1 can Guinness Beer
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Water enough to cover ribs
  • Additional 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
Cooking Directions
  1. Cut ribs in half so that you have two pieces that fit in the slow cooker.
  2. Pour Ginger Ale (or beer) over ribs.
  3. Pour BBQ sauce over ribs and enough water so ribs are almost completely covered with liquid.
  4. Cook on low for at least 4 hours
  5. Oven Method:
  6. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  7. Remove ribs from slow cooker and place on baking pan.
  8. Sprinkle salt & pepper on ribs.
  9. Brush half of remaining BBQ sauce on one side of ribs.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes.
  11. Turn ribs over.
  12. Brush remaining BBQ sauce on the other side of the ribs.
  13. Bake for another 10 minutes.
  14. BBQ Method:
  15. Pre-heat BBQ to medium/high
  16. Follow previous instructions, however reduce cooking time to 5 minutes per side, or until ribs have a crispy skin on the outside.
Instead of using bottled BBQ sauce, create your own simple recipe.

3/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp salt
pinch pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
Stir until well combined and sugar disolved.  This gets better the longer you let it sit, so preparing it ahead of time, gives it more flavour.  Recipe can be doubled or tripled and kept in a jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Mussels Florentine

Ok, I will admit to you all now, that this is my very first time cooking mussels.  Or for that matter anything that started out alive before I cooked it.  I'm not sure how this will turn out, but I am sharing my experience with you, and hopefully this is a really good recipe, and I will continue making it past today.

Check that mussels are still alive.
I've read, watched Youtube videos, and watched TV chefs explain how to check if the mussels are alive.  If they are closed, they are alive.  If they are slightly open or open all the way prior to cooking, try to get them to close the shell by pressing down, or tapping them on the counter.  Done.

This pile appear to be alive and kicking.

And this pile may have kicked the bucket prior to me boiling them in liquid.

Problem was, some of the alive ones, by the time I finished sorting them opened up again, and so I had to re-check if they were still alive.

I think this part scared me more than checking if they were alive and cooking them.
Basically they have little "beards" that are used for sticking to rocks in the ocean.  They don't all have beards apparently, so any that I could find I pulled off.  You grab hold of it, and yank until it comes off. (Sounds painful, but supposedly isn't.) 

Scrub them clean and keep in fridge until ready to cook.  Scrubbing them is easy.  I was also told by the butcher where I bought them to put in water in the fridge before cooking.  However, when I watched a video of how to de-beard them, the chef said NOT to put them in water because fresh water doesn't have enough oxygen for them, and just to cover them with a damp cloth. 

Follow the recipe below to make Mussels Florentine.

Mussels Florentine

  • 1 pound fresh mussels
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
Cooking Directions
  1. In large pot or skillet (big enough to hold all the mussels) heat oil and cook onion and garlic until soft.
  2. Add chicken stock and white wine to pan and heat to boiling.
  3. Add spinach until heated through about 1 minute. 
  4. Add mussels, cover pot, and cook.  After 3 minutes, stir mussels and continue cooking until all are open, about another 2 minutes.
5.  Add butter until melted.
6.  Serve immediately

By the way.  This experiment - this novice's cooking of mussels - turned out really well.  I served with a side of Fettuccine Alfredo and the mussels were really good.

I'm making them again this week for a dinner with my girlfriends.  This time adding a bit of cream to the sauce. 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Turkey Shepherd's Pie (or Cottage Pie)

Traditional Shepherd's Pie is supposed to be made with lamb, hence the name Shepherd's pie.  However, when I was growing up, lamb isn't something we could afford, and so my mother used to make a pie with ground beef, which I later would learn is called Cottage Pie.

No matter what you call it, it's a great winter dinner that can be prepared ahead of time and just heated up when you are ready for dinner.  The basic pie is made with any kind of ground meat or a combination of different ground meet, with your choice of vegetables*, topped with mashed potatoes.

Today I decided to use ground turkey as my base, for a lower fat version.  When you use ground turkey, you will have to add a little more liquid than you would using ground beef, lamb or pork or it will be too dry.  The recipe below is for using turkey.

*I always add corn to my Shepherd's Pie, but peas or shredded carrots (my mother's version) can be added or exchanged, depending on personal taste.

Turkey Shepherd's or Cottage Pie

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 tbsp canola or lower fat oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp powdered beef bouillon
  • 1 tsp powdered chicken or veg bouillon
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn or peas or grated carrot
  • 3 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
Cooking Directions
  1. Prepare mashed potatoes first. Cut & peel potatoes and boil in salted water until cooked (about 20 minutes), mash and set aside.

  2. Heat oil in large skillet and cook onion and garlic until tender.
  3. Add ground meat and spices to skillet and cook until thoroughly cooked, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle flour over meat mixture until covered.
  5. Add bouillon to boiling water, and pour over meat mixture.
  6. Continue cooking and stirring often, until a gravy has formed.
  7. Add vegetables to skillet and stir until well combined.
  8. Pour meat-vegetable mixture into baking dish and press down until smooth.
  9. Spoon mashed potatoes onto top of meat until completely covered.
  10. If you want you can spoon 2 tbsp butter over top of potatoes (can be omitted if you wanted.)
  11. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until heated through.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Meringue Fail aka how to fix a burned pie topping

Today is affectionately called Superbowl Sunday.  Well affectionately by sports fans in particular, and reluctantly by those who love sports fans and the eating that is associated with Superbowl Sunday.

Our group has two different parties.  One at one house for the "boys" and one at another for the "girls".  We girls call our event the "Sportsingbowl".  We basically use it as an excuse to drink wine, eat excessive amounts of food, and enjoy the halftime show.

Besides all the typical Superbowl or Sportsingbowl foods, I usually offer pie as my contribution, because well, who doesn't like pie, and it's the best thing I make.

Since we women have a more discerning pallet, for us it's coconut cream and chocolate cream pie.  For the men it's basic lemon meringue - both lemon meringue and coconut cream have been featured in my blog previously.

Everything was going really well until I wasn't paying attention to my meringue under the broil and this is what it looked like after I peeled it off the pie.

Yes even experienced bakers make goofs sometimes.  But just because you've burned your meringue on top of your pie, it doesn't mean you have to throw it out or start the whole pie again.

Just peel off the burned parts, whip up another couple of egg whites, and try again.  And this is what you get.

A perfectly lovely lemon meringue pie, that unless you're reading this blog, you had no idea that the original meringue was a black mess.

I will share my recipe for easy chocolate cream pie on another blog.  But for now GO SPORTSING PEOPLE who ever you are!