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Monday, October 31, 2011

Beefy Stew

OMG remember this dude?

My dad used to do this most excellent impression of the Swedish Chef. The only downside was that while he was doing it, he felt the need to squish my face into a million different weirder-looking faces and then laugh his ass off. SO unfun.

Speaking of parenting (if that's what you wanna call it), when I was growing up my mum used to make a big pot of stew on Sunday and keep it on the cold back porch all week long for meals. Yes, by Friday you'd be patently sick of stew (and I don't even know what patently means in that context) but it was a great way to make a lot out of very little, which is really the challenge of a well-lived life, if you think about it.

Mum's stews were always sans meat because she's a veg. But I am a blood-guzzling carnivore. I would eat you if I could get away with it. Raw. So I thought I'd try my hand at beef stew:

Beefy Stew

2lbs or so of stew beef (depending on how many people you are cooking for)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
glug of vegetable oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 potatoes, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
1 turnip, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine (optional)
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs rosemary or thyme

Preheat a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pat the beef chunks dry with a clean paper towel and season with salt and pepper.

Add the glug of oil to the bottom of the pot, enough to cover the entire bottom with a thin layer. Place one layer of beef chunks at a time to brown. Sear meat on all sides until it is entirely browned. Once meat is cooked, add half of the vegetables, beef stock and wine if using. Add the bay leaves and rosemary or thyme, and bring the pot to a simmer.

Continue cooking for about an hour until the meat is tender. Then add the remaining vegetables. Continue simmering for another 30 minutes. When finished, season to taste.

Totally heats you up on a cold day, from the inside out. And it makes a completely affordable week-long meal alongside bread or salad for cents a day (that is, if you happen to live by yourself. If you have a family it will be gone sooner). Yes, by the end of the week you do get kinda sick of it, but if that happens just freeze the rest and make something new!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


"Dip" is misleading. "Dip", at least the really good ones, should really be called "shove" because that's what you end up doing, although you'd be offended if anyone pointed it out to you. C'mon. You know you shove your cracker or your pita chip in there like you're proving a point or scoring the winning goal. Don't give yourself airs. But the word "dip" allows you to think you are dainty.

I'm in the mood for dips. Flavourful, healthy ones if possible. I'm not a big fan of eggplant, but I love baba ganoush. I thought about making it, but then I remembered this Greek meal I had once that started with smokey roasted eggplant dip that was delicious. So I did a little research and found what looked like a simple and authentic recipe:

1 medium eggplant
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove crushed garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Wash eggplant and place on a cookie sheet. Roast for 1 hour. Remove from oven and place in fridge for about 10 minutes. Remove the skin and stem and chop eggplant fine, almost to a paste. Place in bowl and add the oil, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and mash eggplant to a pulp. Serve warm or cooled in the fridge.

Looks like a roasted boxing glove:

I love this. So tasty and so simple. As I said at the start of this blog, sometimes the best thing you can do to quality ingredients is almost nothing. Here was have not added much, and simply dry roasted to bring out the eggplant's natural flavour.

Why not make it a hat-trick and do roasted garlic alongside an olive tapenade for our dip-orgy?

Roasted Garlic
1 head garlic
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Cut top off of garlic head so the tops of each clove are exposed. Place inside a piece of tin foil. Pour olive oil over the exposed cloves. Wrap the tin foil shut over top. Roast in the oven for about 1 hour, unwrap and serve.

Mixed Olive and Lemon Tapenade
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup mixed olives, pitted
1/2 small roasted red bell pepper
4 large leaves fresh basil
1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
4 stems finely chopped Italian parsley
glugs of olive oil to taste
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Roast red pepper in oven until soft, remove skin and place half in a food processor. Add olives, garlic, capers, basil, parsley, lemon zest, oil, vinegar to the processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Serve.

I had this little trifecta with toast and it was a perfect way to end the day. Sometimes you just want a light snack, you know?

Monday, October 10, 2011

How Peachy

Ah, peaches. I've been in love with them more than any other fruit ever since I first read James and the Giant Peach. I would lie on my bed and imagine eating my way through a giant peach just like James. As an adult, I pretty much have the same fantasy.

It's actually a great season for peaches right now, as they've all been picked in late summer and are coming into their own now. Of course, they are not as good in the grocery store as they would be in late August on the side of the road in the Okanagan, but we make do with what we have.

When I really love an ingredient, I like to make something sweet and something savory with it. Let's start with the savory:

Peach Tomato Salad

2 peaches, chopped into cubes
10-15 cherry tomatoes, quarters
5 large basil leaves, ripped
good glug extra virgin olive oil
small glug champagne vinegar

Mix all together and let marinate for 15 minutes. Serve.

This is a great side, goes great with a big beefy sandwich or something.


And now, for the sweet:

Ginger Peach Pie

FYI, you know my all-purpose crust that I used to use for fruit pies? I've replaced it with this flakier, tastier version that browns beautifully:


2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small chunks
3 tbsp cold vegetable shortening
1 egg
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Combine flour and salt. Rub in butter and shortening until mealy pieces are formed. Add egg and lemon juice, and moisten until mixture holds together with ice cold water. Divide in half and set aside. Now. Here is where most cookbooks will tell you that you should stick it in the fridge. I disagree. I find it much easier to use if I just knead it a few times, roll it out and lay it in the pie plate. Try a few versions and see what works best for you, you could find that leaving it in the fridge for 5 mins makes it less cracky, but I find room temp with the slight chill of the butter and shortening works well. If the dough gets too cold, it will split, and that is just beyond bullshit to try and roll out.

Roll out and place in bottom of pie pan. Set aside.


1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar (this should vary depending on how ripe and sweet your peaches are. Bite into one and sweeten to taste from there)
1/4 instant tapioca
6-7 large, ripe peaches

Combine lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon, sugar and tapioca in a large bowl. Cut peaches into chunks and add last. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375. Pour filling into the pie pan and roll out the second ball of dough to make the lattice crust. I like to use a serrated pastry wheel make the edges all pretty, but a knife works just as well. Place lattice on pie, first one direction, then crossways, OR you can go super deluxe and weave your lattice. A great tutorial on how to do this can be found here. I personally love doing this as it looks so much harder than it actually is and makes people think you are really talented.

Crimp edges down around the perimeter of the pie pan and wash lattice crust top and edges with egg white. Generously sprinkle sugar on top of the egg, place in the oven and cook for 40-60 minutes, until golden brown and your house smells ridiculous.

I've made this particular pie three times now. Pie porn, y'all:

At first I thought tapioca was a shit thickening agent and fuck it, I was going back to use cornstarch. But it actually works like a hot damn. I would use it in pies you really want to have a thick consistency, like apple. If you don't mind it a little runnier, stick to cornstarch.

Remember this one-hit-wonder? It was a huge hit in the early '90s, here in North America. Proves we have a penchant for inane lyrics. I give you, "Peaches":

Just in case you believe everything you hear in the form of lyrics, moving to the country is no guarantee that you will eat a lot of peaches. I lived in the country for 10 years. No peaches. Not once, ever. What kind of shit is that?