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Friday, September 30, 2016

BBQ Butternut Squash

So the last time I fired up my grill, I decided to slice up my butternut, splash it with olive oil, paprika, and fleur de sel, and throw it on the grill.
I wasn't sure what I was thinking, or if it would be worth sacrificing an entire butternut squash, 
but I'm so happy I did.
This was a pleasant surprise.  I grilled it about 20 minutes, moving the slices around regularly, and when they each had some nice char, decided they were done.
Their natural sweetness caramelized right in front of my eyes on the bbq.
Even the picky ones loved it.. it's a win-win situation.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Seppia of my Life

 Words cannot do this justice.
One must experience this to fully understand the meaning of life.
Cuttlefish, Seiche, or Seppia, however you like to name it, is my all-time favorite living being to enjoy grilled on the plancha.  Whenever I can get my hands on some fresh ones or have it at a restaurant, you can bet it's going to be in my belly.
This is the first time I've cooked such a big one.  The plate shows only half of it (because I unfortunately had to share) but it was a beauty.
The preparation is methodic, but each step gets me more excited until the very first bite where all I can feel is total bliss.  This is powerful stuff.  It pushes my serotonin button and makes my eyes roll back.
The best part is I finally picked my first of 3 beef heart tomatoes to join me in my nirvana-state.
They were perfect.  Just lightly seasoned with Himalayan pink salt, some pepper, and garden parsley.
So how do you prepare Cuttlefish?
Well, you can have your fish monger clean it and remove the skin (which is easier).. or, you can do it yourself... just be careful not to poke your knife into one of the eyes or it will squirt everywhere and might disturb the moment.
The important part is to remove the bone (or plume) and eyes, then pull the skin off and you're done.
For the plancha:
If it is a large one like mine, cut the body in half to make 2 steaks, and score each side diagonally with a knife.
Rub some grated garlic, hot pepper flakes, fleur de sel, and black pepper all over it, then drizzle with olive oil and let it marinate until you're ready to grill (while you're preparing the rest of your sides).
Then, when the plancha or griddle pan is hot, cook it while pressing down (because the sides will curl up) for about 2 minutes on each side.  You should see some nice grill marks.
Then remove and squeeze some lime juice on it and it's ready to go.
Mmmm.. look at that beauty.  I spoke to it at the store before, on the ride home, and while I was preparing it.
It sacrificed itself for me, and I am every so grateful for having experienced this moment...

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Fermented Agua de Jamaica

This summer has been all about the fizz.  Anything sparkly, spicy, or fermented has been floating my bubble.
After successfully creating my ginger bug (which is still active and stubborn and just won't go to sleep), I've been regularly making ginger ale along with other fermented sodas.  I only have 3 glass flip top bottles, so it's not a major production, but it's nice since the quantities are 75cL to 1L at a time, there is a constant rotation of things happening in and around my kitchen.
Only once has the test been horribly awful.  Watermelon soda was really bad.  Really really bad.  Maybe I don't put enough sugar in, but it tasted like rotten tomato juice.  
I'm shuddering just thinking about it.
The sugar thing is psychological.  I know it will be eaten by the lactobacillus and won't actually make the drink sugary.. but it's a real struggle to do it.
Lemonade works really well, though.  Lets focus on the delicious.
Agua Fresca de Jamaica also turns out to be fabulous!  I've often thought that refreshing spiced hibiscus iced tea would be excellent as a bubbly drink...and so it was!
yield 75 cL (25 floz)
1/4 cup ginger bug
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp dried hibiscus flower
1/2 inch piece cinnamon stick
3 - 4 cups water
1/4 cup sugar (or more if you like it sweet)
1.  Place 3 cups of water with the sugar, hibiscus, and cinnamon in a pot.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2-3 minutes until sugar dissolves.
2.    Let cool to lukewarm.  This is important.  You don't want to kill your ferment.  Then remove the solids (hibiscus and cinnamon)
3.  Using a funnel over your flip top bottle,  pour in the ginger bug and lime juice followed by the steeped jamaica.  Top off with extra water if needed.  Make sure not to overfill.
4.  Do not close the bottle yet.  Cover to make sure nobody falls in.  I used a piece of coffee filter and a rubber band.  Let sit at room temperature for 2 days.
5.  Now you can close the flip top bottle.  Let sit for 1-2 days, but not more than that.  My room temperature is around 25°C 77°F right now.  If it's colder where you are, you may let it sit longer, but at your own risk.
6.  Refrigerate until ready to drink.
As always, open with caution.  Do this outside or as shown in the sink.  That is not my hand, by the way.
Hold the flip top cap down and let the air out slooowwwly to avoid the geyser effect.  This method functions well.

Enjoy very cold while discussing fermentation techniques with people who had no idea this could be done!

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Rainbow Tomato Salad

Let me take a moment to share my love for my fellow gardeners who selflessly offer their bounty to me.
Thank you for these extraordinary tomatoes.
I can never get enough of homegrown tomatoes.
The offering included some pineapple tomatoes (the yellow ones), green zebra tomatoes, beef heart tomatoes, and roma tomatoes.
Not only were they full of flavor, sweet, and juicy, but also a beautiful parade of colors and shapes to feast your eyes on...

So, the purest way to enjoy these juicy colorful jewels from the vine is in a simple salad with some olive oil, a bit of cider vinegar, shallots, parsley, feta, and some black pepper.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Extra Dark Chocolate Brownies

Interestingly enough, I have never in my entire life been a brownie baker.  I've been a brownie eater, but I'd never ventured into that domain before.  Until, that is, brownies were requested from me.
It is hard for me to not fulfill a request related to food.  Especially when that request is for something American, Indian, or Mexican.
So I took on the request.. it really can't be that complicated to make brownies, right?
Well, it depends how you like them.  There are 3 categories of brownie preferences:  cakey, chewy, or fudgy.  The ingredients and cooking times will depend on what you are going for.  My requester obviously had no idea what I was talking about, so I first tried a cakey recipe.  My first try was awful.  I mostly followed the recipe, but I must have overcooked them.  Plus, I realized that my requestor was not a cakey fan.  That one didn't make the cut.
Then I found this one.. a nice fudgy heaven using cacao powder.. meaning REAL chocolate.  The result is absolutely perfect.  I did reduce the sugar a bit because 250g seemed a bit much.  This is one I will be making over and over with different variants (candied ginger instead of chopped chocolate).  It got a thumbs up from every person who tried them.  I never need to search for a brownie recipe again.  This is the ONE.
Borrowed from InspiredTaste.
145g (10 Tbsp) butter
200g (1 cup) sugar
65g (3/4 cup) 100% cacao powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp ginger powder
2 large eggs
70g (1/2 cup) flour
75g (2.6oz) chopped dark chocolate (or chocolate chips or nuts)
1.  Place a mixing bowl on top of a pot of simmering water and melt the butter, sugar, and cacao powder while whisking.  This will help it melt gently without burning while nicely infusing the butter with the chocolate.  Set aside to cool.
2.  When cool, stir in the salt, vanilla, and ginger powder and mix well.  I used a wooden spoon.
3.  Drop the eggs in one at a time, beating well each time.  The mixture should go from grainy to glossy, but still nice and thick.  Beat this mixture very very well.
4.  Gently stir in the flour until fully incorporated, then stir in the chopped chocolate or nuts.
5.  Line a baking dish with parchment paper.  Mine was 20 x25 cm (approx 8x10 inch).  The smaller the dish, the taller the brownies. The inverse is also true.  Scrape the batter onto the parchment paper and level it out as much as possible.
6.  Bake at 165°C 325°F for 20-30 minutes.  Mine took exactly 25 minutes.  This may depend on the size of the dish.  Check it after 20 minutes.  A toothpick in the middle should come out almost clean.  The top should be crinkly.  That's good stuff.
7.  Let cool all the way before slicing.
I sliced too soon, but that's ok.
The sugar can probably be reduced to 180g.
The best is to pop in the fridge until cold enough to slice and peel off the parchment paper.. otherwise.. it is a delicious gooey mess and you'll have more on your fingers than in your portions.
This freezes and defrosts very well, too, from what I've heard, but they don't last long enough in this house for me to try that out...

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Garden Tomato and Eggplant Cake Tatin

Living off the fatta the land..
My baby eggplants are just starting to yield multiple eggplants at a time.  For now, 3 is the most I was able to pick at once, but my next harvest will surely be around 6.
Imagine me jumping up and down smiling clapping my hands with my braids flip flopping all over the place.
That is the image of how the idea of harvesting my own vegetables makes me feel.  Baby eggplants are so cute.  I read that if you harvest them too soon or let them grow too big, they will be bitter.  Since they start out purple, it's hard for me to know exactly what the right size should be since.. well, they are supposed to be baby eggplants.  So far, I think the right size is slightly smaller than my fist.  I have a small fist, though.  I guess the size of a roma tomato.  The skin should be glossy.  If it's not glossy, it may be too ripe.
Anyway, as I was harvesting, my lovely neighbor offered me some of her ripe and juicy beef heart tomatoes off her vine.  The stars were aligned in my favor that day.  What a happy couple tomatoes and eggplants make.
I think I'm in love with the night shades...
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer
2 big juicy beef heart tomatoes, sliced thickly
3 baby eggplants, halved (sub 1 small eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes)
few pinches dried thyme
cracked black pepper
few pinches fleur de sel
drizzle olive oil
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk (I put a plain yogurt in a measuring cup and topped off with milk)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
pinch fleur de sel
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder (sub 1 tsp baking soda if GF)
1.  Prepare the topping.  Place the tomato slices and eggplant pieces on a baking sheet and sprinkle with thyme, black pepper, fleur de sel, and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in the oven at 200°C 400°F for about 20 minutes.
2.  Prepare your baking dish.  Cut a circular piece of parchment paper to put at the bottom of your baking dish.  Place the roasted tomato slices and eggplant pieces onto the parchment paper.  This is going to be the top of your cake once it's flipped.
3.  Prepare the batter.  In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the buttermilk, olive oil, and sugar.  In a separate mixing bowl, put all the dry ingredients and mix with your hands to evenly distribute.
4.  Carefully pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Don't overdo it.
5.  Pour the batter (it should be somewhat thick) into your baking dish over the tomatoes and eggplants on the parchment paper.  Use a spoon to spread it evenly across the dish.
6.  Bake at 200°C 400°F for 20 minutes.  The top should start to look golden and the sides should be starting to pull away.
7.  Let cool 10 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the sides to loosen the cake from its mould.
8.  Flip onto a plate, and cover until ready to serve.
9.  When ready, remove the layer of parchment paper and slice.
Serve warm or cold.  I served mine with a salad and called it a meal.  The leftovers were partly eaten for breakfast and partly cut into little cubes and served at happy hour with a toothpick the next day.

This lovely cake is slightly sweet, due to the corn flour.  It is a surprising combination that works quite well and has an interesting presentation.  The batter is just a blank palette for any other combinations now.. zucchini slices.. added feta, caramelized onions, spinach, broccoli.. ooh I'm getting all kinds of ideas.  Oh dear.. jalapeño cake is going to happen... ooOoh!
So now you can have your cake... and eat it too!

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Friday, September 2, 2016

Black Bean & Beet Veggie Burgers

Shortly after purchasing a burger press, I figured anything could be shaped into a burger.  It didn't always have to be ground beef.  I could mix different meats, hide edible surprises inside patties, or even go all veg.  Why not give it a try?
Making an all veg burger is quite a challenge.. but only because I'm calling it a burger.  Calling it a burger means it should resemble meat.  In a meat burger, there is outer char, juicy inside, texture, and doesn't need much seasoning to be delicious. Trying to replicate all those aspects is a long process, but if you plan ahead and make enough to freeze individual patties, you are a total winner.
Just like me.
The reward for all your efforts is to have it on a bun with all your favorite fixings.  Nothing can beat that reward.  Plus, this one is made with beets.  So you can beet that... haha.
Recipe adapted from TheKitchn
Serves 8
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, grated
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 red beets, roasted @ 200°C 400°F for 50 minutes, then peeled, grated, and squeezed
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed, cooked, and cooled
1 1/2 cup dried black beans, cooked (or 2 cans, drained) and separated into 2 portions
1/4 cup dried figs (or pitted prunes)
3 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp mustard
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt/cracked black pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (sub balsamic vinegar if vegetarian)
1/4 cup oats, blended into flour
1 egg (optional)
1.  Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onions.  When the onions are translucent, add the garlic.  Cook until the onions are brown.  Don't burn them.  Deglaze with the apple cider vinegar.  Remove from heat and set aside.
2.  Pulse one of the 2 portions of black beans with the dried figs.  You want them roughly chopped, not pureed.
3.  In a mixing bowl, add everything but the egg and ground oats.  Mix with your hands until the mixture is homogenous.
4.  If using, add the egg and mix well, then add the ground oats and combine well.
5.  Refrigerate this mix for at least 2 hours, at most 2 days.  It will be easier to form the patties when cold.
6.  Shape the burgers into patties.  I used my burger press with parchment paper (meatless burgers are sticky).  If you don't have a burger press, use about 1 cup of the mixture per burger.
7.  To cook, use a plancha, bbq, or griddle pan.  I used my cast iron griddle pan on high for 3 minutes on each side.  It should stay together if you don't poke it too much.  It won't stay together the way a beef patty would, though, so keep that in mind.  I was able to get some nice grill marks on mine.
Serve on a bun with your favorite fixings.
I like mine with lettuce, onion, tomato, a bit of cheese, some mustard and samurai sauce, a chipotle chile, sometimes avocado, and always an egg.

I have to admit to how proud I am of these burgers.  All I wanted was to get a bit of char on there, and feel like I'm biting into something.  Of course, the texture is not the same as a beef burger, but it's not too far off.. and it definitely deserves its place on the grill.
I'm almost out already, so I'm going to be making a bigger batch soon.

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