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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Shrimp Ceviche

Adam and I recently travelled to Colombia where we spent some time in the coastal city of Cartagena. The city is known for its colonial architecture, abundance of emeralds and role in the 80’s classic Romancing the Stone starring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas. It’s also a great place to enjoy seafood and sample ceviche (unless you’ve got a seafood allergy, like Adam, in which case it’s a great place to avoid 90% of all menu items and consume mostly mojitos and ice cream for a week).

Ceviche is typically made with raw fish that is marinated in citrus juice and other tasty ingredients.  I cobbled this recipe together from a few different versions I had in Cartagena. There are an infinite number of variations on this dish and you can easily adjust it to suit your own tastes or whatever you have in your fridge. Shrimp is delicious but it's also great with cod, snapper, haddock, scallops, and squid. The key is really, really, really fresh fish. The citrus will give the fish a “cooked” texture but it doesn’t kill any bacteria that may exist. This isn’t an issue with most high quality fresh fish (think sushi) but I’m personally a bit more cautious when it comes to shellfish as it tends to be more prone to bacterial issues. I opted to lightly cook the shrimp before marinating it, just to be safe.

If you’re ever in Cartagena, I highly recommend the ceviche at the bar in the Santa Clara hotel. Not only is the seafood delicious but the hotel is stunning and it’s a great spot to hang out and escape the blazing Caribbean heat for a couple of hours.

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

1 lb raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, minced
4-5 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
1 avocado, diced
2 tablespoons ketchup (I know it's weird but don't skip this!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup lime juice
zest of 1 lime
generous pinch of salt and pepper

zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Pita, plantain, or tortilla chips

Combine all ingredients, except for the shrimp and garnish, in a bowl and set aside.
Bring a medium-sized pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp, cover with a lid, and turn off the heat. Let the shrimp cook in the hot water for 1-2 minutes (if you're using frozen shrimp you may want to cook them a minute or two longer). Drain the shrimp in a colander and rinse with cool water.

Dice the shrimp into 1/4" pieces and add to the bowl with the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for one hour. Serve in a martini glass or highball glass with chips alongside. Garnish with the additional chopped cilantro and lime zest.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Sweet Potato Chip Crusted Fish Sticks

I love themed eating events.  Recently our bookclub meetings have been themed brunches centred around the plot or setting of the novel, and note that when I say 'novel' I use the term loosely, as we just devoured the Hunger Game Trilogy.  However, everyone has been going 'full out' and we have seen cornucopias weaved from bread dough and full scaled Indian and French inspired events for other books.  Everyone really gets into these themes and I just love it.  So, to my delight when a friend wanted to get out of her dinner rut and have a tropical themed dinner party, T-Moo and I jumped all over it.  The tropical themed dinner included blood orange margaritas, shrimp ceviche, mango coconut crisp, and this fun spin on fish sticks!
Serves 4

Fish Sticks
1 lb of fresh white fish, Talapia, Cod, etc.
2 eggs, beaten
1 large bag sweet potato chips, crushed (plantain chips work well too)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper

Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup plain Greek style yogurt
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 shallot grated with microplane, or chopped very finely
1 tbsp capers, chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp lime juice
lime zest
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking tray with parchment. 

In a large, shallow dish, beat eggs and season with salt and pepper.  In another shallow dish, mix crushed chips and panko together.  Rinse fish with cold water, pat dry with a paper towel, and slice into 1" thick 'fingers'.  

Coat each fish finger with egg, then coat in the chip/and panko mixture, pressing chips to adhere.
Place fish on baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes turning once half way through baking.

While fish is baking, prepare dipping sauce by combining all ingredients and stirring to combine.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Chicken Tajine with Honey Lime Yogurt

Generally I'm not a fan of kitchen gadgetry.  You won't find any slap chops or flavourwave ovens in my cupboard.  There are, however, some exceptions and the tajine is one (onion goggles are obviously another).  A tajine is a large, conical, ceramic dish that comes from the Berber areas of North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria) .  It's used to cook a kind of stew with extremely tender meat and a very rich broth with various vegetables and aromatic fruits.  You can use just about any meat that braises well.  My favorite tajine actually uses lamb shoulder but T-Moo isn't a huge lamb fan and I generally only eat it in spring so chicken ends up being our go-to protein.

I'm told the secret to the dish's flavour is the conical shape of the tajine itself.  The idea is that the meat sits on top of the veggies so it gets steamed instead of stewed. The result is tender meat, rich broth and wild punches of flavour from the olives and fruits.  That being said, one of the best tajines I ever had was cooked in a dutch oven, which is a great alternative if you don't have the real thing.

I've been working on making better tajine for a couple of years now and have made good progress and only a few small fires (true story).  To avoid the aforementioned fires, I've learned not to overfill the tajine and to use less initial liquid since so much comes out of the vegetables.

6-10 chicken drumsticks
1 onion diced
1 can diced tomatoes, strained
2 carrots, diced
1/2 of a small eggplant, diced (sweat it first if you can)
1/2 squash, cut into 1 cm cubes
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup pitted olives, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
2 tbsp shelled, unsalted pistachios
~5 pitted apricots, quartered
Peel of 1 preserved lemon, diced
1/2 cup chicken stock

1 tsp turmurec
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp corriander seed
1/2 tsp ground chili flakes
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp harissa spice

1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp honey
zest of one lime
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp diced mint leaves

If you have the time, it's best to spice the meat and make the yogurt ahead of time so that the flavours combine nicely.  To make the yogurt, simply combine all ingredients, cover and refrigerate.  To spice the meat, first grind the spiced and then toast them in a dry frying pan over medium heat for a few minutes until they become fragrant.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the drumsticks, toss to coat and set aside for at least an hour (overnight is best).

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Combine the vegetables in the bottom of the tajine and add arrange the drumsticks on top, cover and put into the oven for ~1.5 hours.

While the tajine is cooking, make the couscous.  Bring the stock to a boil in a small pot, add the couscous, stir and remove from heat and stir in the olive oil and cilantro.

Serve the tajine over a bed of couscous and top with a spoonful of yogurt.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Mango Coconut Crisp

How can I explain this photo? I was so engrossed in the engaging and delightful conversation with my dinner guests that I forgot about dessert sitting under my broiler. Two minutes turned to ten and before I knew it I had a full-scale oven fire on my hands. It happens. The key to handling this kind of situation with grace and ease is to remain calm, then lie about it and cover it up. Just casually scrape the burnt pieces off, add fresh topping, and start over. If there are any residual singed areas, cover them with ice cream, dim the lights in the dining room, and pretend like nothing happened. Nobody has to know! Unless you take photos of the whole thing and blog about it on the internet for everyone to see…

Despite my own kitchen disaster, this recipe really is quite simple and easy to make. Just be sure keep an eye on it while it’s under the broiler and you’ll be fine. Perhaps check the batteries in your smoke detector, just in case.

Makes 4 servings

4 mangoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup dried coconut flakes plus 2 tablespoons (unsweetened)
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoons butter
vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

Toast the 2 tablespoons of coconut flakes in a small pan over medium-low heat. When the flakes begin to smell fragrant and turn golden brown, remove them from the heat and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375F. Dice the mangoes into 1" pieces. In a bowl, toss the mango with 1 tablespoons of brown sugar. Arrange the mango into individual ramekins, leaving a little room at the top for the crisp topping. Alternatively, you could bake this in a 8" square baking dish.

Combine the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds until the mixture is combined but still coarse. Sprinkle some of the topping into each ramekin.  Bake for 25 minutes for ramekins, 35 minutes for an 8" square dish. Turn on the broiler and broil for about 2 minutes. I think it goes without saying that you should probably stay in the kitchen and watch it while it broils.

Remove from oven, top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, sprinkle with the toasted coconut flakes, and serve.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Smoky Beef and Three-Bean Chili

Unless you are a vegetarian, I would suggest that everyone loves a rich, meaty, beefy chili. Now with that said there are many schools of thought on what constitutes 'chili'; I am mostly speaking to you Texan purists out there that will argue to the death that beans do not belong in chili.  As I am not one for traditionalism, in my chili anyway, in this recipe you will find beans.  If you cannot get beyond this then I suggest that you stop reading here and find a different recipe.  However, for you bean lovers, continue reading on to find a great big batch recipe perfect for game day, a large family dinner, or potluck event.  I like to make this chili the day before I want to eat it as I find the next day it has a richer, thicker consistency.

NOTE: You will require a very large gigantic pot or will need 2 large pots to simmer 2 batches seperately.  You could also half the recipe but this is challenging to do with canned ingredients. I suggest making a enitre batch and sharing it with friends then storing the remainder in individual tupperware and freezing it for quick weeknight dinners.

Makes enough to feed an army and then some!

3 lbs of ground beef
1 lb ground veal
1 tsp olive oil
2 sweet onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, fine dice
2 bay leaves
4 cups tomato sauce
3 14oz cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 16oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 16oz can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 16oz can romano beans, drained and rinsed

Spice Blend
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cinnamon
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Garnishes (optional)
grated cheddar cheese
sliced green onions
sour cream
corn relish
fried tortilla strips

In a small bowl stir together all ingredients for spice blend.

Heat largest pot (or dutch oven) over medium high heat and saute onion for about 10 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Remove onions and garlic from pan and set aside.  Return pot to heat and add beef and veal and cook until browned (drain off excess fat, leaving just 1-2 tbsp).  Add onion and garlic mixture into the beef and add green peppers, jalapeno and bay leaves.  Add spice blend and stir with meat mix until well combine.  Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir in beans.  Bring pot to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for 2-3 hours.  Serve with desired garnishes.