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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Osso Buco with Sun Dried Tomato and Carmelized Onion Risotto

This Saturday I was feeling a bit like the Toronto Maple Leafs ... in desperate need of a win.  After a series of unabashed kitchen failures I decided to turn to a meal creation process that usually pays off for me: pick an element that I know well and base everything else on that.  It's a bit like playing improv jazz (something I did quite a bit when I was younger); you pick a key, a riff and then expand on that theme so that everything you play sounds like a constructed song, even though you're making it up as you go along.  In this case, I chose the key of Italian and the riff was sun dried tomato.

We started with sun dried tomato risotto because it's FANTASTIC and I've been making risotto for over 20 years so I knew I could make that work.  Osso buco seemed like an ideal pairing because the creamy marrow and delicate meat would echo the creamy risotto.  It also had the benefit of being braised for only slightly over an hour so we could make the risotto while it cooked. The citrus punch from the gremolata topping goes well with the sun dried tomatoes in the risotto.

Most osso buco recipes call for braising in white or red wine, aromatic veggies and whole or diced tomatoes.  I decided to substitute sun dried tomatoes for the fresh or canned ones as I wanted to match the flavour from the risotto.  We then strained and reduced the sauce which allowed us to concentrate the sun dried tomato flavor even more and meant that we wouldn't drown the risotto in a lot of liquid.  The resulting dish isn't as colourful as the traditional version but I think it tastes more intense.

Osso buco:
4 osso buco (slices of veal shank)
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, chopped
4 sun dried tomatoes, whole
3 cups white wine
2 cups veal or beef stock
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary

Zest of one lemon
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 tbsp parsley, diced
1 tsp olive oil

3 onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups arborio rice (accept no substitutes)
1 cup sun dried tomatoes, diced
2 cups stock + 2 cups water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350F.
I like to start caramelizing the onions first because I cook them in the oven, which takes longer but saves labour (you can do them on the stove in a frying pan if you prefer). In a large pot, toss the onions in oil. Cover and place in the oven for about 30-45 minutes. If you're out of time and there is still liquid in the pot or if they are not fully caramelized, remove from oven and transfer to the stove on medium heat to finish. Remove the lid and let cook until any remaining liquid has cooked off and the onions are the colour of caramel. While the onions are in the oven, make the gremolata so that it can spend some time ... gremolating.  Simply combine the ingredients in a small bowl or ramekin, cover and refrigerate.

Turn the oven up to 400F. Dust the shanks in flour and brown them on all sides over high heat in a high sided oven-proof pan that's large enough to hold them.  Remove them to a plate and saute the carrots and celery in the same pan.  When they begin to soften and become fragrant (2-3 minutes), add the onions, garlic, herbs and saute 2-3 minutes more.  Add the meat, stock and 2 cups of wine.  Bring to a boil, cover and place in the oven for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325F for ~45 minutes. 

While the osso buco is cooking make the risotto.  Combine the water and stock in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low to keep the stock warm.  In a large pot, saute the garlic on medium high heat until fragrant, add the rice and stir to coat.  When the rice is coated in the oil, start to ladle in the warm stock while stirring.  As the stock is absorbed, ladle more in while stirring so the risotto is always wet but not drowning in stock (stirring is the key to creamy risotto and the reason why Italian grandmothers will always beat you at arm wrestling).  As it cooks, the starch starts to come out of the rice and the risotto takes on a creamy texture.  Stop when the rice still has some bite and is a little al dente, before it turns mushy.  Ideally the stock/water runs out when the dish is done but you may need slightly more or less depending on how the risotto gods feel that day.  Once cooked, thoroughly stir in the diced sun dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and Parmesan and remove from heat.

If all goes well, the osso buco should finish around the time the risotto is done.  Remove the meat to a plate and cover.  Add the last cup of wine, bring to a boil then strain and discard the vegetables, reserving the tomatoes.  Reduce liquid and tomatoes until the sauce thickens.  You can add some butter but I found it was smooth enough on its own.

Layer a spoonful of risotto on a plate, top with meat and one of the tomatoes from the sauce.  Drizzle with sauce, sprinkle with gremolata and serve.  This pairs really well with Italian red wine like San Giovese or Chianti (we chose Chianti) as the wine won't overpower the food.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Creamy Mushroom Soup in Bread Bowls

For most of my life, my relationship with mushrooms has fluctuated between blind hatred and cool indifference. As a child, I would pick them out of stirfry, eat around them in salads, and recoil in horror if a rebellious mushroom somehow made it on to my pizza. In high school, I was voted "least likely to ever post a mushroom recipe on a food blog". Yet, here I am, defying expectations and embracing my former enemy with open arms. How did this happen? Clearly I have a great capacity for personal growth. My mushroom-loving boyfriend may have also had something to do with it. However, the tipping point came about a year ago when we were on vacation in Lake Placid. Adam ordered a mushroom soup that came served in a bread bowl. Initially I was indifferent, perhaps even slightly disappointed that he didn't order something delicious that I could sample. Then...the aroma wafted across the table and I became curious. How could something so vile, so greige, smell so appetizing? One spoonful turned to several spoonfuls (to Adam's dismay) and before I knew it, I was a mushroom fan. A mushroom soup fan, at least. This recipe is my attempt to recreate that game-changing meal.

My biggest beef with mushrooms ("mmm, beef with mushrooms" - Adam) has always been their texture. Unfortunately this precluded me from every appreciating their delicious woodsy flavour. This soup is blended until it's smooth and creamy, which means I can enjoy the Umami experience without issue.

Serves 4

drizzle of grapeseed oil
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
3 shallots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
5-6 cups chopped mushrooms (I use oyster, shitake, and cremini)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
dash of Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper
truffle salt to garnish (optional)
4 crusty buns

Heat a drizzle of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the celery and shallots and stir. Let cook for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and thyme. Saute for 2-3 minutes longer until softened. Add the chopped mushrooms and stir to combine. Saute for 5 minutes until the mushrooms have released their liquid and have softened (you'll know you're getting close when the mushrooms stop squeaking). Add the stock and Worcestershire and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover, and let cook for 10 minutes.

While the soup cooks, you can prepare the bread bowls. Cut around the edge of the bun and remove the top portion. Scoop out some of the bread inside to make a bowl (this is my cook's treat but you can also save it for bread crumbs).

Remove the soup from the heat. Using a stick blender (or in bathes in a regular blender), blend the soup until smooth. Add the cream and stir until incorporated. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper as needed, it almost always needs a generous pinch of salt at this point. Give it one final stir to incorporate everything. Scoop into bread bowls, garnish with a sprinkle of truffle salt, and serve.  

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Squash, Blue Cheese, and Arugula Pizza with Figs

I love this pizza. I love everything about it - the sweetness of the figs, the tangy blue cheese, the crust that is crisp on the outside and tender inside. I love nutritious and tasty addition of squash and arugula that allows me to pretend that, even though it's pizza, it's really not that bad for me (silence, carb haters!). I love the way it makes just enough for a weeknight meal for two with leftovers for lunch the next day. I love the way it tastes fresh from the oven. I love the way it tastes when eaten cold, straight from the office fridge. I love how it brightens my day, even as I eat it hunched over my desk at work while trying, frantically, to meet a deadline. I love how it embodies everything I would have hated to eat as a child (moldy blue cheese, mushy squash, green stuff!) but now love because I've matured into a worldly, food-blogging sophisticate. My only issue with this pizza is that it's difficult to eat it while patting myself on the back for being a worldly, food-blogging sophisticate, it's really a two-hand or knife and fork pizza.

Makes 1 large pizza (about 6-8 slices)
Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water
1 package active yeast (about 2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
2 1/2 cups flour (plus extra for dusting work surface)
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pizza Toppings
1/2 butternut squash (about 1 lb)
1 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
olive oil
6 dried figs, roughly chopped (you can also use fresh if available)
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese (goat cheese is also great)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups arugula
salt and pepper

Combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water in a bowl or large Pyrex measuring cup. Let stand for about 10 minutes until the mixture is frothy. Combine the flour, salt, yeast mixture, and olive oil in a large mixing blow and mix together until well combined. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball, adding more flour as needed. Cover the bowl of dough with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F. Peel the butternut squash and remove all the seeds. Slice the squash cross-wise into 1/4" thick pieces (the shape isn't important as long as they are evenly and thinly sliced). Arrange the squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Roast until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Turn the oven up to 425F.

Punch down the pizza dough and transfer to a floured work surface. Gently spread the dough into whatever shape you like. I bake this on an oiled rectangular baking tray but you could also use a pizza stone.  Bake for 3-5 minutes, until the dough has stiffened and is slightly puffed up but not browned. Remove from the oven and drizzle with olive oil. Arrange the squash slices, figs, and cheeses on the pizza dough and return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and dough is golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with arugula and freshly ground pepper. I like to let the arugula wilt for a minute or two before slicing and serving.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Mini Pavlova with Balsamic Strawberries and Cream

Remember when you were a kid and you thought that clouds were soft, cottony, pillows that you could float on, if only you could somehow reach them? Perhaps there was a castle there and a room full of toys. No? Just me? Well, I used to dream that I could go there in my sleep and I'd never have to do chores, like sweeping, ever again. It was glorious. Then I lost my Les Miserables soundtrack and forgot all about it.

Now, of course, I understand that clouds are nothing more than water droplets suspended in the atmosphere. Here on earth, we have meringue. My favourite thing about this recipe is watching simple egg whites transform into velvety, billowing, meringue clouds. When baked, the meringue becomes slightly crisp on the outside and soft like a marshmallow on the inside. Top them with a fluffy dollop of whipped cream and just about any fruit you like, then serve one to your boyfriend in exchange for sweeping the floors. You'll be in heaven.

Makes about 16 Pavlova

For the meringue:
8 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white wine vinegar

For the topping:
2 cups chopped strawberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup strawberry coulis (see recipe)
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a bowl, combine the strawberries, balsamic, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Set aside while you make the meringues (you can also do this step ahead of time and keep the berries in the fridge until you're ready to serve).

Preheat oven to 300F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Trace circles onto the parchment paper using a drinking glass that is about 10 cm in diameter. You should be able to fit 6-8 circles onto each parchment, depending on the size or your baking trays.

Combine the sugar and corn starch in a bowl. In a separate bowl or stand-up mixer, beat the egg whites on high (it's important to use a clean, dry bowl). While beating, gradually add the sugar/cornstarch one spoonful at a time. Continue to beat until the mixture is glossy and forms stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and vinegar and whip briefly to incorporate.

With a spoon or your fingertip, place a small dot of meringue under each corner of the parchment paper. This will help it stick to the baking tray and make it easier to sculpt the meringues. Spoon about 3/4 cup of meringue onto each circle. Using the back of a spoon, make a small indentation in each meringue to make room for the filling. Place the baking trays on the centre rack in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven off and let sit in the oven for another 30 minutes until the meringues are golden. Remove and transfer to a rack to cool.

Whip the cream with the remaining two tablespoons of sugar and vanilla. To serve, top each meringue with the whipped cream, a spoonful of strawberries, and drizzle of strawberry coulis. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Puppy Chow

I lived in Florida for a brief period of time and when working there I had the chance to meet a lot of great people from all over the US and eat a lot of new and 'different' foods that I had never tried before, such as deep fried pickles, sausage gravy (thinking it was a vat of oatmeal at breakfast one day I sprinkled it with brown sugar...mhmm) and puppy chow.  Puppy chow is a sweet treat that is simple to make and a sure crowd-pleaser.  It  is also great mixed with popcorn and pretzels or served on ice cream.

Makes 4 cups of chow!

4 cup Chex or Crispix cereal
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup icing sugar
*large resealable plastic bag
In a large bowl combine peanut butter, chocolate and butter.  Microwave in 30 second increments stirring after each heating, until mixture is melted and smooth.  Alternatively you could melt this mixture over a double boiler.  Add vanilla and stir to combine.  Add cereal to PB and chocolate mix and gently stir to coat cereal well.  Once cereal is well coated place cereal into large resealable bag with icing sugar.  Seal bag and shake until cereal is well coated in sugar.  Serve!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Mediterranean Braised Chicken

This is one of my boyfriend's signature dishes.  He loves anything with rich, meaty flavour or that is saucy. Think Indian food, Bolognese and braised meats.  This dish falls into the braised meats category, where chicken thighs are slowly simmered with flavours from the Mediterranean to create a tangy, velvety sauce.  We always used to eat this served with broad flat noodles or rice, however, just recently discovered soft polenta which I think is the perfect side dish.  I can't wait to taste what he cooks up next!

Serves 4

1/4 cup all purpose flour
salt and pepper
8-10 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 sprig rosemary
1 sweet onion, large slices
3 cloves garlic, sliced
4 Roma tomatoes, quartered and seeded
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
1 1/2 cups white wine

Combine flour, salt and pepper on a large plate.  Dredge chicken thighs in flour and shake off the excess.  In a large skillet with a lid, heat oil over medium high heat.  In two batches, sear chicken thighs about 3 minutes per side or until just browned.  Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.  Return the pan to medium heat and add rosemary and onions.  Cook for about 7-8 minutes then add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes and olives and return chicken to pan, once tomatoes have softened slightly (about 3 minutes) add wine to skillet and bring to a boil, once boiling turn heat to low and simmer chicken for about 20-30 minutes. Serve.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Gnocchi success at last!

 Gnocchi are a fabulous pasta.  When done right they're like delicious little down pillows.  When done wrong they're a bit like eating chunks of old gum.  I was always told that the key was not to add too much flour and not to work them too much.  In practice I found this a bit like taking advice from Wayne Gretzsky "Just go to where to puck is going to be!", great in theory but practically impossible.  

Gnocchi are our white whale ... or at least they used to be.  Some of our greatest kitchen disasters and best concrete substitutes have come from failed gnocchi attempts.  It actually got to the point where T-Moo wouldn't even try any more and the mere mention of gnocchi would cause her to lie on the floor and scream like a tired 3 year old in a grocery store.  So I was ecstatic when I took a cooking class on a recent business trip to London and finally learned how to make Gnocchi in a reliable way.  It turns out the key, like a fine cigar, is hand rolling!

Quantities are all per person:
1 baked russet potato
1 egg yolk, beaten
~1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt

Scoop the inside of the potatoes into a bowl and mash with a fork until it's no longer chunky or use a potato ricer if you have one (I have two ... for some reason).  Add the eggs and mix thoroughly, slowly adding flour until it starts to form a dough ball.  It will start like a bowl of wall paper paste but should start to come together after adding a couple of tablespoons of flour per potato (the amount will depend on the size of the eggs and potatoes).

When the dough starts to come away from the side of the bowl pick up a chunk about the size of a baseball with your hands and roll it around in the flour to dust it all over (your hands will get very dirty).  Once dusted, pick up the dough ball and roll it around in your hands until it becomes wet again (the egg will seep through as you roll) and then re-dust and repeat rolling.  Repeat this rolling and dusting process until the egg stops seeping through the flour dust (usually 3-5 times).  The dough won't firm up much because there isn't any gluten in the potatoes and so you have to treat it gently.

Flour an area of your counter or cutting board to work the dough. Take the dough balls and roll them into long snakes about 2cm thick much like you used to do with PlayDough when you were a kid (you used to do that too right?).  You can now use a fork to gently press grooves into the snakes or leave them as is.  Cut the snakes into pieces about 2-3cm long.  The dough will still be very tacky inside and quite soft so the best way to do this is to chop down quickly and then flick the pieces to the side with your knife to prevent them from sticking to each other and to the knife.

Add the gnocchi to a large pot of boiling salted water.  They're done when they float.  Avoid over cooking them as they'll just disintegrate into the pasta water.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Roasted Pink Grapefruit

While grapefruit aren't exactly local here in Canada, they are available in abundance in stores and seem to be particularly delicious in winter.  I was trying to think of something different to do with these grapefruit when I remembered a recipe in the New York Times a few years ago where they melted brown sugar in a frying pan and added the grapefruit on top, searing it cut side down in the pan. I liked the idea of caramelized sugar and warm grapefruit but also worried I may end up with burnt sugar all over my pans (not the most fun thing to scrub off), so I opted to use the broiler instead. The result is a sweet, tart, warm treat that takes no time to prepare and would make a delicious breakfast or light dessert at the end of a heavy meal. I had one leftover so I decided to make a grapefruit version of our whiskey sour recipe - delicious.

Makes 4 servings

2 grapefruit
4 teaspoons brown sugar

Turn your oven on to broil. Slice each grapefruit in half, then slice a very thin piece of the rind off each end to create a flat base for the grapefruit halves to sit on. With the cut sides facing up, slice between the segments of fruit to release them from the surrounding rind and membrane (this will make it much easier to scoop out the segments when you eat them). Place in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet and sprinkle the top of each grapefruit with brown sugar. Place on a high rack in the oven and broil for 3-5 minutes until sugar is caramelized and the grapefruit is slightly blackened around the edges. Serve warm.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Fried PB and Chocolate Wontons

Whenever I make dumplings I always end up with a few leftover wonton wrappers which usually throw in the freezer thinking I will use them for the next batch.  This is never the case as I always get fresh ones and end up tossing the severely freezer burnt ones that I was saving.  With my last batch of dumplings I decided I would try my hand at some dessert wontons to use up the leftover wrappers. All I can say is yum! Why didn't I do this any sooner?! OK, so maybe it's not the most figure flattering dish but all you need is one or two to satisfy your sweet craving at the end of a meal. 

Makes about 10 wontons

1/2 cup oil, peanut, sunflower or anything suitable for high heat
10 wonton wrappers
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp icing sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla
2 oz of your favourite chocolate, broken into 10 pieces

In a small bowl heat peanut butter and butter for about 30 seconds in the microwave.  Stir to until smooth to combine.  Add vanilla and 2 tbsp of icing sugar to peanut butter mix and stir to incorporate. 

Fill a ramekin or small bowl with cold water. Lay out wonton wrappers and wet one edge with water. Place about one to two tsp of peanut butter mixture in the centre then add a piece of chocolate on top.  Fold wrapper over to create half-moon shape and seal.  Next, fold the two ends tip-to-tip and seal by pinching to form a wonton shape. 

In a small pot, heat oil over medium high heat to 350F.  You can use a meat thermometer to gauge the heat. Prepare a plate lined with paper towel.

In two batches, place wontons into hot oil and fry for about 2-3 minutes, turning over to brown all sides.  Remove wontons with slotted spoon to plate lined with paper towel.  When all wontons have been fried, serve on plate with a dusting of icing sugar.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Cauliflower White Cheddar Soup

Often when I go into a grocery store I have a plan, a list, and have just eaten. This is supposed to keep me on track and prevent me from tossing all sorts of other items into my shopping cart.  However, on my last trip to the store, list in hand, I couldn't stop myself from tossing in a large head of cauliflower.  It just looked so fresh, white and appetizing, I couldn't help it!  Hmm, raw cauliflower looking soo appetizing? I must not have snacked prior?! Then, of course, not knowing quite what to do with it I let it sit in the fridge for the better part of the week, maybe not as appetizing at this point.  However, not wanting to waste it my first thought was soup, followed by broccoli cheddar soup, where I then decided why not substitute the broccoli for cauliflower?  I made this soup wanting to keep the integrity of the whiteness of cauliflower so I used aged white cheddar as opposed to the dyed orange stuff.  After tasting this soup I will plan to put cauliflower on my list more often!

drizzle olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/4 cup white wine
1 large white potato, peeled and chopped
1 head cauliflower, core removed and chopped
4 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
salt and pepper
1 cup aged white cheddar, grated
crumbled bacon and green onions sliced to garnish

In a large pot with a lid heat oil on medium heat then add onions and celery.  Add a splash of water and cook about 10 minutes with lid on until onions and celery are translucent, stirring occasionally.  Remove lid, add garlic and thyme, cook for 1 minute.  Turn heat to high and once pot is hot add wine, cook 2 minutes.  Add potato, cauliflower and broth.  Bring to a boil then turn heat to mid-low and cover and cook until potato and cauliflower are tender, about 20 minutes.  When vegetables are soft remove from heat and remove thyme sprig. Ladel in batches into a blender, with a couple of the batches add the Greek yogurt and salt and pepper to taste.  Blend until smooth and place blended mixture into a fresh clean pot.  Continue until all is blended and has been placed in the pot.  Add cheese and stir to incorporate.  Serve immediately or keep warm on low heat until ready to serve.  Garnish soup with bacon and green onions.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Liebster Blog - Thank You!

The Onion Gogglers have been doing a happy dance for the last 24 hours after finding out that Chris at Sweet Mornings has awarded us the Leibster Blog Award!  Thank you so much for selecting us, it is truly very exciting as the blogging world is so new to us! 

Here's a quick run down of what this award is all about.  Liebster is German and translates to 'dearest' or 'favourite' and can be awarded to new and exciting blogs with fewer than 200 followers.  This award is meant to be passed along or "paid forward" and the following rules apply:
  1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog 
  2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you 
  3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog 
  4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed 
  5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment on their blog
Onion Goggles would like to award the Liebster Blog Award to the following blogs:
  1. A Clove of Garlic, A Pinch of Salt
  2. My Mother's Daughter
  3. Must Come Hungry
  4. Tea and Cake
  5. Baguettes and Butterscotch
Thank you to our followers and those who read our blog daily.  Thank you to all the other bloggers in the community that support Onion Goggles and send new readers our way. We write and share our recipes and stories with the hopes that when you read, you learn something new, are inspired to create a new dish or smile and have the occasional laugh.  We apprecaite all of your comments and hope you enjoy reading us as much as we enjoying writing and cooking for you.

Turkish Stuffed Peppers

I first came across these in a market in Vienna.  I was walking around and just followed my nose across 3 aisles of other vendors to find a happy little turkish man dishing these out to a HUGE line of customers.  The line was 50 people and almost half an hour long but the smell kept me there and I am forever grateful that it did as this has become one of my favourite dishes.

You can stuff these with just about anything (Chorizo and rice is fantastic) but I'll always be partial to the original because nothing tastes as good as nostalgia.

Per person:
1 red pepper
1/4 pound ground lamb or beef (sometimes we combine with ground chicken ot turkey)
1/2 cooking onion diced
1 clove garlic diced
1/3 cup couscous
2/3 cup chicken stock
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kofta spice
1 handful rough chopped cilantro
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400F. Multiply the recipe by the number of servings (and peppers) you want to make.

Bring the stock to a boil, add couscous and turn down to a summer for 3-5 minutes until couscous has absorbed all the liquid.

Saute the onions in the oil over medium low heat until soft.  Add the spices and garlic and continue to cook until the garlic is fragrant. Add the meat and cook thoroughly, then add the couscous, mix thoroughly and remove from heat.

Cut the tops off the peppers and spoon out the seeds and pith as though you were going to make a tiny jack-o-lantern. Spoon the filling into the peppers.  Place the peppers in a casserole dish so that they prevent each other from falling over. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the pepper skin begins to blacken.  As the peppers cook they will release their juices and oil into the rice mixture which is really what makes this dish fantastic.

Serve with a salad or veggies on the side or all by itself.  You can also use very small peppers or divide them in half and serve these as the side dish. 

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Tomato Baked Eggs with Chard

It's been an exciting and hectic week (as soon as I wrote that I realized it's only Thursday, jeez). I've been inundated by new projects at work, we are anxiously awaiting the birth of my first nephew, and Adam and I closed on our first home and are now fully immersed in planning and executing a substantial renovation. Needless to say, all of this hasn't left a lot of time for grocery shopping or cooking. My diet this week has consisted mainly of champagne (new house!), croissants (standard meeting fare at work), and leftover chicken tagine (stay tuned for that recipe). Wait...why am I complaining?

While I could certainly do a lot worse, tonight I needed to get back on track and wanted to make something fast, light, and healthy that I could throw together with pantry and fridge staples. This recipe would be great for breakfast or a light lunch as well. I've baked it in ramekins but if you don't have any, you could also use a baking dish. Pour the sauce into the baking dish and crack an egg into each corner, then spoon out individual portions.

Makes 4 servings

drizzle of olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup strained tomato or tomato puree (I use Pomodoro tomatoes that come in a jar)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small bunch of chard
4 eggs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 loaf of your favourite crusty bread

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large pot, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and let cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and let cook for 3-5 minutes until the onions and garlic are soft. Add the thyme, oregano, generous pinch of salt and pepper, and crushed chili flakes and stir. Let cook for 1 minute, then add the diced and strained tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes.

While the tomato sauce simmers, wash the chard and trim off and discard the ends. Chop into 1" pieces. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as required. Add the chard to the sauce and stir to incorporate. Let cook for another 5 minutes.

Arrange four ramekins on a baking sheet. Ladle the sauce into each ramekin, leaving about an inch of space at the top. Crack an egg into each ramekin, on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with a small pinch of salt and pepper. Bake the eggs until the whites are set but the yolks are still soft, about 8-10 minutes. Top with grated Parmesan and serve with a slice of crusty bread for dipping.