Archive for the ‘ vegetables ’ Category

Bruschetta….

Another family staple in my house is bruschetta. You can’t go wrong with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some fresh bread. Throw some cheese on it, and you’ve got a pretty filling sandwich alternative.

The recipe I used to use for bruschetta is sadly no longer online… or if it is, I can’t find it….

I’m horrible at writing down quantities, I just kind of chuck everything into a pan until it tastes right, but here’s my best effort:

Ingredients:

-1 baguette/focaccia bread

-4 cloves garlic (I always double this)

-1 /3 cup olive oil (extra virgin is best!)

-1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

-1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

-Salt and black pepper to taste

-700g roma tomatoes, chopped

Directions:

1. Mince or crush the garlic and add it to the olive oil, set aside.

2. Slice the baguette into 1.5cm slices.

3. Brush the slices with some of the olive oil/garlic mixture. Make sure to reserve 1 tbsp.

4. Put the bread slices oil side up on the top rack of the oven, and broil until the bread browns a bit. This should take about 5 minutes, depending on the oven. You just want to dry the bread enough so that it’s not soggy when you put the tomatoes on it. Be careful not to burn the bread!

5. In the meantime, put the remaining olive oil and tomatoes, balsamic vinegar  into the pan on medium heat. Add in the balsamic vinegar and  basil, mixing the ingredients with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook the tomatoes until they have softened a bit, no more than 5 minutes.

6. Spoon the tomato onto the bread slices and serve. Alternatively, you can put the bruschetta back in the oven after you’ve put the tomatoes on, and sprinkle it with some finely grated parmesan or some other low-moisture Italian cheese of choice.

These days I’m trying to stay away from bread, but I still love tomatoes, so I often prepare tomatoes bruschetta style to serve as a side dish. Here they are, and the next time I make proper bruschetta, I’ll add the pic.

Indian Feast…

A few times a year, I like to make a good Indian meal. I find having a good Indian food experience in a restaurant is very expensive. It can easily set you back €200 for four people, without dessert, and without drinks. So I’ve resorted to making the food myself.

I cooked Indian food every couple months  while I was in Korea, although on a much smaller scale. I would make my own naan, but as far as the tandoori chicken or the butter chicken went, I would buy a spice pack. Thank you, Asian Kitchen!

Needless to say, a good home-made Indian meal has been a long time coming at my house, so here it is!

I started off by making my own garam masala. We didn’t have any in the house, and I couldn’t find any in Wassenaar. Fortunately for me, I had all the ingredients needed to make it. What a fluke!

Next, I made my own paneer, or cheese, for my veggie dish, palak paneer, which is basically spinach cooked in a cream and tomato sauce. The hardest part of making the paneer was tracking down cheesecloth. At one point, I decided I was going to use my sister’s (unworn) pantyhose, but then I managed to find some cheese cloth at the kitchen store in our little town. It set me back 6 euros, which I’m sure is way more than you’d pay in Canada, but I didn’t mind too much because it’s reusable and can be washed at a really high temperature.

Most recipes say to use homogenized milk, or milk with a fat content of at least 3.25%. I decided to use volle melk, which is as close as you can get to that in Holland. I googled and found that volle melk is in that same ballpark when it comes to fat content, but my experience making the milk taught me a little different. From 2 litres of volle melk, my yield was just shy of 150g worth of cheese. For anyone who plans to make their own paneer in Holland, you might be wise to use more milk than most recipes call for.

I didn’t take a picture of the paneer, but here it is in the palak paneer:

Next, I made the butter chicken…. Rather than suffering in an effort to make tandoori masala, I just added in a little more garam masala and then threw in the ingredients that were missing. The butter chicken turned out great–my only gaffe was to use a bit of ghee in an effort to sweeten the butter chicken. I ended up with an odd kind of sweet taste that was too strong, so I balanced that out with some more fenugreek, which kind of has a bitter taste.

I added a 1/4 cup of cashews to the recipe, just because it’s something I’ve seen being done in Indian restaurants, and a few other recipes recommended it. I also threw in a bit of madras curry to make the sauce a bit more flavourful. That may well be a faux pas in authentic cooking, but I found that it improved the dish quite a bit.

Most of the butter chicken I’ve tried in restaurants has been on the sweet side, so I also added in some white sugar until it tasted about right. It’s no Bombay Choupati, but I do what I can. The only thing I would do next time to improve on my dish is make it spicier… and not put ghee in it.

Next, the naan. Thanks to my sister for making and rolling out the bread. Pretty straightforward. Since I don’t have a tandoori oven, we use a bbq for the airiest results. About an hour before grilling the naan, I crushed a few cloves of garlic and put it in about a 1/4 cup of ghee. I later brushed this mixture on both sides of the naan as it grilled. It tasted just like in the restaurant!

Since we didn’t have enough yeast in the house to make a triple batch of naan (we love the stuff A LOT), I decided to add saffron rice to our menu. Thanks to my mom for cooking the rice. If you do plan to use this recipe, heed the advice and use chicken broth instead of water, it’ll make all the difference in flavour. Next time, I intend to add cashews and raisins to it for a stronger flavour.

Last but not least, the drinks! Mango lassis. There are probably some great mango lassi recipes out there, but we didn’t use any. Just some full fat yogurt, a couple cans of mangoes, some caradamom, sugar and some mango juice.

Making Indian food is always a half-day trial, but it certainly is worth it in the end. Good food facilitates good conversation 🙂

Caesar Salad Supreme

I’m sure many North American expats can agree on one thing: a good Caesar salad dressing is really hard to find in the rest of the world. Whether it’s too sweet, too flat, too oily, too watery or too much like Ranch, they all seem to taste pretty terrible.

Now when we lived in New Brunswick, Caesar salad meant some romaine lettuce (if we were lucky) tossed with Kraft Caesar dressing. Special occasions meant that maybe we’d get a salad kit with powdered, dandruffy parmesan, and bacon bits (facon, really, they’re made from soy). Caesar Cardini was far from our minds.

Fortunately for us, a good family friend of ours exposed us to the wonders of a home-made Caesar dressing. The only downside to her dressing was that it was the real deal (ha!)… meaning it had anchovies and raw egg in it. Try as I might, I don’t think I’ll ever become a fan of dried anchovies.

After moving to the Netherlands and suffering through brand after brand of crappy Caesar dressing (Remia and Calve), not to mention terrible house dressings in restaurants (I remember a particularly scarring experience in London), we gave up on Caesar salads completely for at least a year. It was a bleak time.

Then I found this recipe. Great stuff really–the use of mayo eliminated the need for raw egg, and even though it called for anchovies, the recipe still tasted good without it. Best of all, for those watching their waist lines, you can still indulge in a Caesar salad–just use light mayo, and go easy on the cheese and bacon, and skip the croutons.

This dressing’s been a family favourite for a few years now, because it’s so easy to throw together and tweak until it’s just right. 

Cookin’ freestyle….

So… as much as I love cooking, I still don’t have the confidence to cook without a recipe very often. The other day I was grilling mackerel (whole this time) and wanted some yummy quick way to do eggplant on the ‘q. I sliced them up, drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper, and this pre-packaged spice mix, called ‘Secret d’Aromes’ by Knorr, then I sliced up some tomato and grated a bit of romano and crumbled a bit of feta cheese.

I put the eggplant on the top grill at 350F or so, and cooked them for about 3 minutes,  then turned them over and threw on the feta, then the tomato and finally the romano. I love romano/gran padano as a substitute for parmesan cheese just because they have less moisture, making them easier to grate, and keep for a long time.

The eggplant turned out pretty good. The only thing I’d change next time is to spread the oil more evenly, and on both sides of the eggplant.