Tag Archives: chicken

The G20 Series: Mexico

13 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

Funny, I was just thinking along the same lines as Chris – how the hell do you sum up an entire country’s food in a mere 3-4 paragraphs?!

You can’t.  I can’t, anyway, so I thought long and hard about what sets Mexican food apart for me from the rest of the crowd (I had to fight getting up in the middle of the night to make tacos).

Here’s what I came up with:

Mexican food is perhaps one of the most fun, messy foods to eat.

Tacos and tacitos drip hot sauce and juices from pork and chicken,  enchilada sauce bursts forth from your entree, and ceviches blot your napkin with lemon or lime juice.

Salsas are perhaps one of the messiest condiments, with the water from the tomato or tomatillo and citrus juices making it sometimes difficult to get on your tortilla chip or breadstick.  And when your  fajitas, quesadillas and tacos have salsa on them, just  know that it might take a few tries to get the hang of it and not have it end up on your shirt front.

The good thing about salsa is it is simple to make an outstanding one as long as you have fresh ingredients on hand, and because you don’t have to cook it, it can be made quickly.  The base ingredients include tomatoes or tomatillos, cilantro, onion, garlic, citrus juice and hot peppers.  Some pros say salt and pepper too, but I’ve never done that.  (Hmm, I’m going to try that next time….) I like to chop and mix it all by hand, but many people use their food processor.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is the making it fresh always trumps a store-bought one. And this way, you can make it as hot or mild as you like.  The best way to add heat to your salsa is to remember that:

1.  the smaller the chili, the hotter it is

2. add a little at a time and taste as you go

The other thing I’ve learned is, salsas vary in Mexico, depending on the region.   Northern Mexico is known for its hearty grilled beef dishes, so you want something vibrant to stand up against the heaviness.

In The Cuisine of Puebla by Karen Hursh Graber, Northern Mexican “Drunken” Salsa is the perfect accompaniment.  And she says if you don’t have tequila, an extra 1/4 cup of beer will do just fine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 mulato chile, seeded and deveined, soaked in hot water until soft, drained
  • 3 pasilla chiles, seeded and deveined, soaked in hot water until soft, drained
  • 3 large garlic cloves, roasted on a comal or griddle, then peeled
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion
  • 3 tomatoes, roasted on a comal or griddle
  • ½ cup beer
  • 2 tablespoons tequila
  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar or piloncillo
  • salt to taste

Preparation:

Grind the chiles, garlic, onion and tomato in a molcajete or blender. Add the beer, tequila, pineapple juice and sugar and blend to combine ingredients. Add salt to taste.

Made a few hours ahead of serving, this salsa develops a deeper flavor. Makes 2 cups

If you want to make something from the South, use a smoked jalapeño called Chipotle.  The Aztecs who lived in central and southern Mexico from the 14th to 16th Centuries, came up with the idea.

The only other thing I would suggest is a lot of napkins.

You’re going to need ‘em.

The G20 Series: Japan

10 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

Japanese is just about one of the only cuisines I could have every day for the rest of my life.

I like that there are so many aspects to it.  We North Americans are taken with sushi, sashimi and maki, but in Japan there are noodle houses, dumpling houses, tempura delicacies as well as many unusual ingredients from the sea.

You can search for Japanese restaurants outside of Japan to find out where to get authentic Japanese dishes near you and The Japanese Food Report offers lots of pictures and videos.

My favourite Japanese restaurant in Toronto is Daio Sushi (45 Calton St. 416-260-2116 ) which unfortunately doesn’t have a website.  Daio is family-run and really authentic – there are rice paper walls and the servers dress in kimonos.

What it great about Daio is that it is not fancy, so you can go with a group of friends and feel comfortable, and it is not expensive, especially when you consider the ingredients and preparation.

They have items on the menu that many “sushi joints” pass over in favour of cream cheese-filled rolls and other Americanized plates.  Torigarage is deep-fried dark meat chicken served in pieces, Japanese style.  This is the kind of treat you would find in an izakaya in Japan.

Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu are also available.  These are Japanese hot pots that are incredibly delicious and oh-so filling!

Your server brings out not only the homemade broth and all of the fresh, thinly sliced ingredients, but the heavy  cast iron pot and table-top element to cook it all in.  It says that it serves 2, but 3 or 4 could easily tuck into this lovely dinner.

And if you can’t resist getting makimono or sushi and sashimi, choose some of the more interesting selections that Daio offers, such as Burdock (Yamagobou maki) and Sea Urchin (Uni temaki hand roll).

To make authentic Japanese fare at home, try:

Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking: Simple, Elegant Recipes for Contemporary Tastes by Harumi Kurihara

Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook by Mark Robinson and Masashi Kuma

Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh

どうぞめしあがれ or Douzo Meshiagare – “Enjoy your meal!”

Monday Review – How to Cook Everything & Bon Appetit’s Fast Easy Fresh

10 Nov

How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food, 2nd Edition by Mark Bittman & The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh: 1,100 Quick Dishes for Everynight Cooking by Barbara Fairchild

By Stephanie Dickison

They arrived at my doorstep with a big enough thud that the cat and I both jumped.  A big box containing two looming cookbooks meant that I was going to have to rearrange the bookshelves -again.  These were the mightiest cookbooks I’d ever seen outside of my lovely food and cooking encyclopedias that I cherish so deeply.

The one good thing about their size and weight is that really, if you are just starting out or are looking for big, basic cookbooks to cover a little bit of everything, these have got it.  All of it.

And while I know a lot of you have your own go-to cookbook like The Joy of Cooking, I’m highly recommending these.

They are so vast in knowledge and so easy to use and follow that really, no kitchen should be without them.

Here are my thoughts on each one:

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A little while ago, I told you how much I loved Mark Bittman’s Recipe Cards.  Well, the book, How to Cook Everything, 2nd Edition, just knocked my socks off.  Really.  I mean, it’s got everything: illustrations that you can follow along with, like tying meat or preparing tomatoes.  Easy-to-make recipes that are neither tired or repetitive (unlike my roster of dishes).

And here’s the best testimonial of all – On Saturday night, I stopped by the grocery store to get meat.  I had been to 2 others, but hadn’t seen anything of excitement.  However, at my third stop, I came across a fairly good sized beef tenderloin roast for $5.86.  Now, I had only ever made 2 roasts before this, so it’s not something I usually get, but it was so inexpensive and beautiful that I couldn’t resist.  However, I had no idea how to cook it.

That is, until I got home and turned to page 735, where the Roast Tenderloin with Herbs recipe awaited me.  I marinated the meat for only an hour as my Mom had stopped by for a visit.  It turns out neither Mom, me or my fella have roast beef outside of weddings and funerals, so I felt a little pressure for it to turn out well.

The recipe was an easy mixture of oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs and the only thing I had to do was check the meat with a thermometer after 20 minutes.

Folks, while it is not the best roast I’ve ever had, it was absolutely wonderful.  And I truly couldn’t have possibly done it without this book.  Later this week I’m going to tackle 22 Picnic-Perfect Salads and How to Season Simply Cooked Seafood.

This is my new cooking bible and yes, you can borrow it anytime…

bonappetit

The title, The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh: 1,100 Quick Dishes for Everynight Cooking says it all, doesn’t it?  It’s from Bon Appetit, so you know it’s trustworthy (and probably anything you make from this will be better than if you’d gone it alone) and it’s all about making quick and easy dinners, which let’s face it, at the end of the workday, can be one of the most challenging meals to make and make well.

I mean, I would never in a million years think to make Crabmeat, Corn and Cumin Salad in Endive Spears, but doesn’t that sound absolutely lovely?  And what about Oaxacan Chicken Mole?  That sounds much better than the usual roast chicken breasts that I make!

My favourite thing about this cookbook is the recipes never include more than a handful of ingredients and instructions, so I can actually make pretty fancy fare in a short amount of time, which is really what I strive for most every night I cook.  And now thanks to this cookbook, I can actually rev up my own standbys.  So instead of my usual steamed spinach, I’m going to make Pesto Creamed Spinach and instead of my usual orzo, I’m pumping it up to Carrot Orzo.  Sure, they are simple changes, but I find that these suggestions and ideas really get me out of my usual cooking rut and go-to items.  It helps keep things exciting in the kitchen and I remain excited about cooking and making dinner every night, which I’m sure you know can be a challenge at times!

I am so excited by all of the new possibilities that I’m off to get some ingredients for dinner tonight!

These are the best books and really, a must have for anyone who spends anytime at all at the stove.  And hey, they’ll make the very best presents this holiday season.  I mean, there are recipes in each of these to please everyone!

Monday Review: Dinner at Your Door

3 Nov

Dinner at Your Door: Tips and recipes for Starting a Neighbourhood Cooking Co-Op by Alex Davis, Diana Ellis and Andy Remeis. Gibbs-Smith

By Stephanie Dickison

In these tight economic times, I think that preparing meals at home and sharing meals with friends, family and neighbours will become a part of our routine, just as more people will take transit, stay in to watch movies and generally cut back where they can.

But that doesn’t mean that it has to feel like a sacrifice.  In fact, I think that this getting back to sharing meals and stories around the table is a good thing!

So when I received Dinner at Your Door, I thought – this is absolutely the perfect time for this!

The premise of the book is this:

“We love to cook. But every night? No way! On the other hand, we don’t want to eat out or have frozen pizza. On the nights we don’t cook, we want something delicious-a balanced meal with quality ingredients. Come to think of it, what we really want are home-cooked meals made by somebody else and delivered!
Welcome to co-op cooking, possibly the best idea since Pyrex with a lid. With the plan set up by Dinner at the Door, you cook one fabulous dinner a week and have two or three equally sensational meals delivered to your door, hot and ready to eat. If you love to cook but the pressure of doing it every night gets you down, a dinner co-op is for you. Instead of slamming together three or four 30-minute dinners a week, you can take your time crafting one superb weeknight meal and enjoy receiving the other meals automatically.”

So basically, you and a group of friends, family members and neighbours – anyone who lives in a close proximity – sets up a dinner co-op where you all cook and share the food that you make.  And it’s pretty easy when you think about how much effort it is to cook for two – think about how little extra it is to cook for say 6!

And the benefits of setting up a co-op are plentiful – you get to try new foods, dishes and ingredients, you get exposed to new ideas and presentations and you get a couple of nights off to spend with the kids or read that book for your book club or whatever it is that you want to do, but can never find the time for.

This book goes through everything you need to know – questions to ask yourselves and others before becoming involved, what to do when someone leaves the group, options on delivering the food and forms and worksheets to use.  It really is the bible of setting up a neighbourhood cooking co-op!

But what I like most about the book is how approachable everything is.  Normally, I would have never considered doing such a thing, but the damn book makes it seem like you’d be crazy not to – after all, these are the few steps you need to take! I really think that this book could not only change the way we eat and cook, but our lives.

And the recipes – oh my God, the recipes!  Not only do I want to make these dishes, but I can’t wait to share them with friends and neighbours!  Check out the first recipe – Avocado and Grapefruit Salad with Chile Maple Pecans.  I am making that this weekend for sure!  And there’s:

Spinach & Edamame Soup with a Touch of Cream

Salmon with Fresh Strawberry Relish

Hunter Chicken with Artichoke Hearts

Cobb Sandwich on Fresh Bakery Bread

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Orange Chipotle Glaze

The photos are tremendous and the book is laid out so really all you need to do, is follow their guidelines.

I’m off to write cards to friends and neighbours to kick off my own neighbourhood co-op.  Thanks to this amazing book, I actually feel like I can do this!

I’m so excited!

Friday 5 – Chili

3 Oct

By Chris Garbutt

As we’ve mentioned in the past, October is national chili month in the U.S. Let’s have a look at some chili options:

1. Because we just can’t get enough of Newfoundland, from Rock Recipes, a Grilled Corn, Roasted Red Pepper and Sausage Chili.

2. I wondered if this American classic had a Canadian version. So I Googled “Canadian Chili” and got this.

3. A nice variation: White Bean and Chicken Chili.

4. It’s not chili, but it’s loaded with chillis – Tofu with Beans and Bok Choy.

5. Can chili kill you? Apparently so.

Monday Review: Chef’s Secrets

18 Aug

Chef’s Secrets: Insider Techniques from Today’s Culinary Masters As Told to Francine Maroukian

By Stephanie Dickison

My friend and Co-Editor Chris Garbutt is going to go crazy for this one.  Since he just got a brand-new barbecue, he’s going to love “How to Build a Three-Zone Fire on a Charcoal Grill” by Steven Raichlen.  And for those rainy days, he’ll probably follow the instructions of Allison Awerbuch and “How to Do Your Own Stove Top Smoking.”

But that’s not to say that there’s not valuable tips and methods for you and I in this little book.

In fact, “How to Ensure a Crisp Roast Duck” by John Villa has me contemplating getting a whole duck to surprise my fella with when he gets home from a business trip and perhaps wow him with my new talents, thanks to Andrew Chase’s advice in “How to Filet an Eel.”

What I garnered most for this lovely book of expertise though, are the simple things that you really want to do well, like “How to Roast a Chicken – Pefectly” by Jimmy Bradley and the odd little things that only chefs come up with like Michael Cressotti’s, “How to Tenderize Octopus with Wine Corks,” and the revolutionary “How to Crisp Tender Greens and “How to Improve the Consistency of a Tomato.”

There are a few recipes throughout and after each chef’s advice, they are asked questions about their favourite food city, kitchen motto and bar snack.  But I bet it’s the advice you remember long after the pages have been closed.

You may think that you know most of what there is to know about cooking, but I assure you that you’ll find something that changes the way you make jus or improves your ganache forever.

And the best thing is that it only takes about an hour or so to read it cover to cover.

You can afford that to become a better cook, can’t you?

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