Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Recipe: Maple chipotle baked beans

These beans have become a huge hit beyond what I thought was possible.  I love a good plate of beans, but they aren't exactly "politically correct" if you understand my meaning.  I had been passed along the starter recipe for this, I loved it, but it used baked beans and while it did a very nice job doctoring the sauce, but begged to be taken to the next level.  Then Carla and I somehow got involved in three potlucks in two days - a gigantic batch of something was in order.

The first thing was to get down to basics and mix up the bean variety - I used three kinds, but by all means go for it!  I would happily get some lentils and chickpeas involved, but in this case I felt I should stick to the basics.  Next, being baked beans, I thought a hint of smoky chipotle would do it nice.  This of course led to one of the greatest cross-border flavour combinations with the involvement of some dark maple syrup.

You will need:

4                         white onions
4 cloves              garlic
796ml / 28oz      tomatoes (1 can)
796ml / 28oz      red beans (2 cans)
1080ml / 38oz    white beans (2 cans)
1080ml / 38oz    black beans (2 cans)
540ml / 19oz      pineapple tidbits (1 can)
160ml / 2/3C      brown sugar
125ml / 1/2C      molasses
125ml / 1/2C      ketchup
60ml / 1/4C        maple syrup (#3 dark is best)
3                          large chipotle chiles (rehydrated if dried)
1                          red bell pepper            
1                          green bell pepper
250ml  / 1C         corn kernels
5ml / 1tsp            smoked paprika
5ml / 1tsp            black pepper
2.5ml / 1/2tsp      cumin
to taste                 kosher salt
as needed             olive oil


 - set the oven to 325F
 - dice the onion and start it caramelizing in a large pan with some olive oil
 - mince the garlic and have it ready
 - split the canned tomatoes and de-seed them, saving any juice
 - puree the tomato flesh
 - when the onions have started to colour, add the garlic and take to a rich brown
 - add the paprika, pepper and cumin and toast slightly
 - drain the pineapple, use the juice to deglaze the pan and reduce slightly
 - add the tomato juice, puree, molasses, ketchup, brown sugar and maple syrup
 - add the chipotles and bring the broth to a simmer
 - add the pineapple
 - drain the beans and mix them together in a large crock pot
 - add the hot broth and mix well
 - put the lid on the pot and bake for 1 1/2 hours
 - dice the bell peppers and have ready
 - after the baking, remove the lid and mix in the peppers and corn
 - return to the oven uncovered for another 1/2 hour
 - cool slightly, then serve hot

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Culinary tourism: Merridale Ciderworks

Be it the Okanagan or Vancouver Island, visiting a vineyard for a tasting and a bite to eat is a nice diversion, but how about heading out to an apple orchard and cider operation for a change of pace?  Well, we were on the island recently and my cousin said we had to check out Merridale, and it took very little arm-twisting to get us to agree.  Located in Cobble Hill (Duncan area in the larger island-sense),  you really get out into some nice country here.  Once at the orchard, you can tour the charming buildings of cider operation, the orchard (nicer shade offered than a vineyard), the trout pond, visit the spa, or even try your hand at spotting the apple blossom faeries that run rampant in the area.  Then you can sample some product, shop in the store which offers selections from several local artisans, or have a bite in the nice restaurant.

How's the cider?  Not so easy to answer.   Merridale has several.  I won't tell you my favorite, you want to be unbiased when you try for yourself.  They also venture into fortified cider (like a fortified wine), brandy and even an apple based vodka!  They actually were recently awarded the honour of being B.C.'s first qualified craft distillery for their efforts in crafting the vodka.  Being an operation that values the natural process of things, Merridale also employs the services of a few hives of previously out of work bees to help the orchard along.  In exchange, the bees provide some lovely honey which is also available in the store.

So next time you are on the Island, or if you are fortunate enough to already live there, take a trip out to the country and have a sip of cider.  You could do worse.  You can find Merridale Ciderworks at 1230 Merridale rd., Cobble Hill, B.C.

Recipe: Lady fingers

Lady fingers are a noted classic.  They might be used in a tiramisu or an English trifle - or they can be enjoyed on their own as a light cookie with coffee or tea.  Either way, there's generally a huge difference between a store-bought product and one you made yourself.  They aren't that hard at all, so if you have the time, I highly recommend making your own.

You will need:

3                          eggs
125ml / 1/2C       sugar
2.5ml / 1/2tsp      vanilla
160ml / 2/3C       cake flour (all purpose will work if necessary)
as needed            icing sugar
as needed            pan spray


 - set the oven to 325F / 163C
 - separate the eggs
 - in a mixer, whip the whites on medium speed to a medium peak
 - meanwhile, whisk the yolks in another bowl with a quarter of the sugar until thick and pale
 - add the vanilla to the yolks, whisk again and set aside
 - sprinkle the rest of the sugar into the whites and whisk to a medium firm peak
 - fold in the yolks
 - sift the flour into the mix in 3 stages and fold in
 - load into a piping bag with a plain round tip (or no tip in a plastic disposable bag)
 - spray a cooking sheet lined with a silicone mat or paper with pan spray
 - pipe the "fingers"
 - sift icing sugar liberally over the fingers
 - bake for 12 - 15 minutes until the tops are slightly crisp and golden

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Recipe: Smoky baba ghanouj (eggplant dip)

Some years ago, I did a bit of traveling in the Middle East and fell in love with the proper preparation of baba ghanouj.  I'd always been a fan, but never knew that what I had been enjoying was simply an eggplant dip - I had not tried the real deal.  It seems simple, but the biggest difference is that a proper baba ghanouj needs to have a certain smokiness about it as it usually begins with the whole eggplants being roasted in an old school oven, charcoal grill, or over a wood fire.  The difference turns a side dish into a meal - really, I would go into a restaurant and just order baba ghanouj and pita bread and I was good.  As a lot of the old-world methods of cooking are less available in Vancouver (pizza shops even need a special permit for wood ovens), I've adapted this recipe a bit to the equipment readily available, but arriving at the same destination.  If you can cook the eggplant old-school, do it!  Just remember to prick the eggplant with a fork well before roasting.  The onion nicely rounds out the flavour being sweated off, but if you like extra smokiness, slice it up and smoke it along with the eggplant.

You will need:

2                      large eggplants
1/2                   red onion
4 cloves           garlic
60ml / 1/4C     tahini
30ml / 2Tbs     lemon juice (or more to taste)
pinch                cumin
pinch                smoked paprika
as needed         olive oil 
as needed         black sesame seeds
as needed         kalonji (onion seed)
to taste             kosher salt
to taste             cracked black pepper


 - load up a smoker with wood chips and get it smoky
 - if you have a barbeque, set it on low - or set the oven to 325F / 163C
 - slice the eggplants into thick slices, brush with olive oil, and smoke for 30 minutes
 - if you have a barbeque, transfer the slices to the grill and cook soft - or roast in the oven
 - let the eggplants cool and remove the skin - optional - I don't mind it, but some do
 - mince the garlic and dice the onion small
 - sweat the onion and garlic in olive oil on low heat
 - when the onion and garlic start to colour, add a pinch of cumin and sweat a little more
 - in a food processor, blend the onion, garlic and tahini
 - roughly chop the eggplant and add it in
 - use the lemon juice and olive oil to taste 
 - if the taste is good, but it's too thick, add a little water
 - season with salt and black pepper
 - when serving, drizzle olive oil over it, and garnish with paprika, kalonji and black sesame

Monday, July 15, 2013

Recipe: Granola bars

Granola bars are just about the perfect food for a hike or emergency camping rations.  This recipe is a good base recipe to make the crispy kind.  I like the satisfying crunch of these and they are inherently drier than chewy ones, which makes them easier to pack and able to withstand a longer journey without refrigeration.  Like a lot of granola recipes, you can freestyle within the boundaries of the oats, seeds and nuts to create your own flavour.

You will need:

1L / 1qt                 oats
175ml / 6fl oz       slivered almonds
30ml / 2Tbs          sesame seeds
325ml / 11fl oz     corn syrup
25ml / 5tsp           water
20ml / 4tsp           vegetable oil
45ml / 3Tbs          brown sugar


 - set the oven to 280F / 138C
 - mix all the ingredients well
 - spread out on a paper lined baking sheet (two if you want thin bars)
 - pack the mix into the sheet and make it evenly flat
 - with a palette knife "cut" the bars or whatever shapes you choose
 - bake the bars until golden brown (up to an hour)
 - cool on a rack
 - break the bars off along the cuts you made
 - pack for your hike and go

Friday, July 12, 2013

Recipe: Fig jam

This is a great tasting jam you can use for a number of things.  You could spread it on toast, but I'd rater have it alongside some nice cheese.  You could even warm it up a bit and put it on top of some ice cream for a simple and delicious summer dessert.  Fresh figs and honey make for a great pair, but you'll find that the white balsamic vinegar perfectly cuts through the sweetness for a beautiful balance. 

You will need:

10                        fresh figs
2 Tbs                   honey
2 Tbs                   sugar
2 Tbs                   white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs                   water
to taste                 kosher salt


 - cut the stems off and dice the figs
 - put the figs in a pan with the water and slowly bring to a simmer
 - as the figs release water, stir and let the water cook off
 - when the figs are almost dry, add the sugar and honey and stir in
 - once the mixture is nice and thick, add the balsamic vinegar and simmer some more
 - season with kosher salt
 - remove from the heat and cool down
 - store in an airtight container and use as needed

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cookbook review: Touque! by Normand Laprise

Hot on the heels of the Canada Day celebrations, it seems the patriotic thing to do to talk about my latest favorite Canadian cookbook,  Toque!  by Normand Laprise.  The book is named after one of Quebec's most lauded and long-standing restaurants and Chef Laprise is credited with being at the forefront of Canadian cuisine with his incredible creativity and dedication to producing a quality product from start to finish.

We always hear talk of regional and seasonal cuisine now, but these are some of the key philosophical points the restaurant was founded on over 20 years ago.  Toque!  has recipes for dandelions, stinging nettles, and wild berries you may not have even heard about.  You wonder if they even use suppliers for some things or do they just head out into the open country and do a bit of foraging.  With their emphasis on quality organics, you can bet they have done a lot to encourage the local suppliers to patronize those small, local farmers who work so hard and with so much love to bring a great product to market.  Attitudes like this are what really help the often overlooked areas of our regional economies.

Creativity?  It's all here.  Plates are splashed with colours and textures that make you want to eat the pages.  Paints and chips of any vegetable and fruit you could hope for are possible and thrown around with the precision and seeming randomness of an abstract painting.  I saved the best part for last - it has been a long time since a cookbook has absolutely stunned me with a recipe.  If you are brave enough, Chef Laprise will walk you through making caramelized soil.  Soil!  SOIL!  CARAMELIZED DIRT!  I had to read it twice back to back.  It's pure insanity and by the end you'll want some.  Chef Laprise even goes as far as to guide to sourcing out the best dirt to start with - none of that store-bought crap, you need to head out into the woods for this.  Unbelievable.  CHECK IT OUT HERE.

note:  the link above is for the French edition

Recipe: Chicken tinga (pulled chicken in tomato sauce)

Tinga is a great Mexican dish that within its own boundaries is very versatile.  The pulled chicken meat has a great texture, and the tomato sauce can range from mild to rip-roaring hot depending on your treatment of the seasoning.  I would use canned whole tomatoes if possible for the puree - they usually have a better taste than other canned products.  If you happen to be making this in the prime of tomato season, you bet use fresh, but that's a short window of time, so this recipe goes with canned.  If you want to add some basic mirepoix to the simmering chicken thighs, go ahead, but you'll get some nice broth out of it regardless.

You will need:

1kg / 2.2lbs              boneless and skinless chicken thighs
1                               large white onion
300ml / 10fl oz         tomato puree
30ml / 2Tbs              chipotle puree (see Abuela's chipotle)
15ml / 1Tbs              brown sugar
4 cloves                    garlic 
5ml / 1tsp                 ground cumin
5ml / 1tsp                 smoked paprika
2.5ml / 1/2tsp           chili powder
to taste                      kosher salt
to taste                      black pepper
if needed                   vegetable oil


 - put the chicken thighs in a pot and cover with cold water - add mirepoix if you like
 - bring to a simmer and cook the chicken completely 
 - strain off the chicken and chill the broth
 - pull the chicken meat into shreds and set aside
 - julienne the onion, mince the garlic, and puree the tomatoes and chipotle
 - skim any chicken fat off the broth and use it to saute the onion - add oil needed
 - bring the onion to a golden brown and add the garlic
 - add the cumin, chili, and paprika and saute some more
 - add the brown sugar, tomato puree and chipotle puree and simmer
 - add the pulled chicken to the sauce and cook until the sauce just coats the chicken
 - season with salt and pepper
 - serve

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Recipe: Rajas con Papas (poblanos in cream with potatoes)

dice and cook the potatoes
This dish is a bit of a fusion, but was a huge hit at my family reunion over the Canada Day weekend.  Carla, Diane and I were throwing a Mexican dinner and so had the task of selecting a few feature dishes from the huge repertoire of wonderful Mexican cuisine.  One of Carla's favorite dishes is chorizo con papas - kind of like a corned beef hash using chorizo instead.  One of my favorite dishes is rajas - poblanos cooked up in a cream sauce (seems a bit simple, but it gets me every time).  Since most Mexican dishes do have some meat involved, we were a bit stuck in our selection of vegetarian options - why not take the chorizo out of the potato equation, stretch the sauce of the rajas and use it to dress the potatoes like a warm potato salad?  Well, it turned out a stunner.  Vegetarian or not, everyone hit it hard.  The poblanos gave it a nice little zip, but it was mild enough that everyone could enjoy it - even Isabella at 11 months couldn't get enough!  If you want to just make rajas, simply use enough cream to make it saucy and serve.

peel and cut the poblanos

You will need:

6                           medium to large potatoes
3                           poblanos
1                           large onion
3 cloves                garlic
200ml / 6.8fl oz    cream
100ml / 3.4floz     sour cream
as needed             olive oil
as needed             kosher salt
as needed             black pepper
caramelize the onions
as needed             roasted corn


 - put a pot of water on to simmer
 - peel and dice the potatoes
 - simmer the potatoes in the water until almost cooked
 - strain the potatoes out of the water and let air-dry, cool, and set aside
 - roast corn on the grill, or pan-roast kernel corn in a pan and set aside
 - burn the poblanos, sweat, then peel (or use microwave - peeling peppers - microwave method)
 - cut the poblanos into thick strips and set aside - save any juice they have released
 - julienne the onion and saute in oil
add the cream and poblanos
 - when the onion is golden brown, mince the garlic and add it in
 - take the onions and garlic to a rich brown
 - deglaze the onions with the poblano juice, then add the cream
 - bring the cream to a simmer, then add the poblanos
 - simmer some more
 - add the sour cream, and season with salt and pepper
 - add in the potatoes and toss well in the sauce
 - check the seasoning and adjust if necessary
 - toss in the roasted corn and serve

add the potatoes and corn

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cookbook review: Elements of Taste by Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky

Today's cookbook review is not only a good source for great recipes, it's a fantastic reference book you can return to again and again and learn something new each time.  The title should give you a good indication of the book's direction, but don't underestimate it.  

Most of us know the four basic elements of taste - sweet, salty, sour and bitter.  The more eager students are jumping up and down in their seats saying "umami! umami!", referring to the more ambiguous concept that there is a sensation of taste that broadly recognizes that something is "tasty" - it is closely related to salt (while remaining distinct) and is what gives MSG its amazing power.  Well, Grasshopper, you have a bit to learn.  Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky will introduce you to fourteen elements of taste - fourteen!  And this is because they felt the original twenty-two they came up with might be a bit much for us to handle.  Sit down, hush up, and get ready to learn something.

Reading this book, you will learn to use language such as "pushing", "pulling", "punctuating", and "platform" as the new categories from which this multitude of taste sensations come from.  You will come away with a greater understanding of why certain foods and flavours are such good friends.  Even if you try to open the book and simply cook a recipe, inevitably you will end up reading a short passage about why the flavours work together, or how certain cooking techniques affect how flavours blend and come together.  This book will help you develop the kind of understanding you need to create memorable dishes.  Most people can follow a recipe, but much fewer have the ability to come up with something new, original, and hit the mark or very close to it on the first try.  Read this book, understand it, and apply it.  CHECK IT OUT HERE.

P.S.  This book is a great companion to the Flavour Bible.