Thursday, June 30, 2016

Strawberry Greek Salad


Happy Canada Day Everyone!

With the holiday here, every food blogger and their cousin is probably going to make red and white food in honour of the Canadian flag. These dishes will usually be some variation of red velvet cake, which is great, but not very appetizing in the Montreal heat and humidity. In weather like this, I prefer something light and refreshing with a generous hit of salt to combat the electrolytes I lose in the heat. It is with this in mind that I came up with Strawberry Greek Salad.

This salad uses the delicious strawberries now in season and gives them a savory kick by using them to replace the tomatoes in a classic Greek Salad. It may seem weird, but the creamy saltiness of Canadian feta cheese is a beautiful contrast to sweet-tart berries. Add a cucumber for extra freshness and replace the lemon with lime and you’ve got something EXTRA special.


Here's How You Do It 

Difficulty Level: Super Easy
Prep time: 10 Minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 English Cucumber, rinsed and coarsely chopped - Those giant cucumbers you see covered in a sleeve of plastic wrap in fruit and grocery stores. Be sure to keep the plastic on until right before you use it. Removing the plastic too soon will dry it out.

2 Cups of Strawberries, the leaves removed and the berries cut in half or in quarters depending on the size of the berries

½ Cup of chopped Canadian Feta Cheese – Canadian feta is the perfect balance of creaminess and saltiness. If you like things EXTRA salty, use Greek feta, but as it’s Canada day, I’ll proudly eat the Canadian stuff and love it.

Juice of 2 Limes – Greek salad typically uses lemon but limes feels more summery to me because they’re a main ingredient in margaritas.

4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 Teaspoon of Oregano

Salt and Pepper – to taste

Equipment

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Measuring Spoons

1 Salad Bowl – Any big bowl you own will work as a salad bowl

1 Wooden Spoon

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and stir them together with a wooden spoon.

That’s it.

You can serve it now though it will keep for a day in the fridge.

Happy Canada Everyone and enjoy the salad and the fireworks!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.



Thursday, June 23, 2016

Veggie Burgers with Sauteed Garlic Mushrooms



I’ve always believed that the true test of a good cook is if they can take an ingredient or dish they don’t like and turn it something they’d happily eat. This veggie burger recipe is inspired by the fact that I don’t like legumes (I find the texture reminiscent of plastic-wrapped sand) and generally find veggie burgers so bland they’re inedible without a ton of toppings and condiments. I decided to test myself and see if I could come up with a veggie burger using legumes and having few toppings that I would actually want to eat.

Luckily, I succeeded.

This veggie burger is my riff on the falafel burger recipes I see circulating online but unlike those recipes, I add sautéed mushrooms to give it a bit of meaty umami and I give an extra creaminess and pep to the recommended tzatziki spread topping. This is one of the few recipes on this blog where you will need a food processor, without one the texture of these burgers will be too chunky and uneven.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium
Total Prep and Cook time: 30 Minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients

BURGER

1 – 19 oz/540 ml can of Chickpeas aka Garbanzo Beans – drained and rinsed

½ Cup of Chopped Onion

Juice of ½ a Lemon

Salt – to Taste

2 Teaspoons of Oregano

1 Cup of Breadcrumbs – I like panko, a Japanese style breadcrumb, but because you’re using this in a burger and not as breading, it doesn’t matter much

Vegetable Oil for Frying

1 Pack of Hamburger Buns

MUSHROOMS

1 Pack of Mushrooms – Finely Chopped

1 Large Clove of Garlic, peeled and Chopped

1 Tablespoon of Red Wine or Balsamic Vinegar

Salt and Pepper – to taste

1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil

Teaspoon of Butter

CREAMY YOGURT SPREAD

2 Tablespoons of Mayonnaise

4 Tablespoons of Greek Yogurt

1 Large Clove of Garlic, grated or finely chopped

1 Green Onion – Finely Chopped

Zest of 1 Lemon

Salt – to taste

Hot Sauce – to taste – You want something thick-ish like Sriracha. A sauce that’s too watery will mess with the spreadability

Equipment

1 Food Processor

1 Rubber Spatula

1 Frying Pan

1 Regular Spatula

1 Mixing Bowl

1 Heat proof regular bowl

1 Plastic container

1 Spoon

1 Knife and cutting board

2 Baking Sheets

1 Piece of Wax or Parchment Paper

1 Plate

Paper Towels

Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper.

Dump the chickpeas, onion, oregano, lemon juice, breadcrumbs, and a little salt in the food processor. Pulse until finely ground but NOT paste-like.

Taste and adjust the salt to your liking, doing another quick pulse with the food processor to combine it.

Form into patties by squeezing the mixture firmly into discs with your hands. Tightly squeezing them together with your hands will allow the mix to hold together without any eggs.

Put each patty on the paper lined baking sheet and set aside.

Heat the Olive Oil and Butter in the frying pan on medium-high heat until melted and add the chopped garlic. The SECOND you smell the garlic, add the mushrooms and vinegar.

Stir the mushrooms around until they’ve shrunk and softened, about 5 or 10 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.

Put the mushrooms in a heat proof bowl and set aside.

In the same frying pan used to cook the mushrooms, heat some oil on medium high heat and cook your patties for 5 to 7 minutes per side. It’s time to flip them when the edges turn dark brown. Don’t worry if they seem dark. The crunchy exterior will allow them to hold together.

Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.

Put each side of your buns face down on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven at 350 0F. The oven doesn’t have to be preheated for this. It’s just to toast the buns.

While the buns are toasting, get your spread ready by combining the garlic, mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon zest, salt, green onion and hot sauce in a plastic container or bowl and stir everything together to combine.

You can now assemble your burgers!

Put a patty on the bottom half of your bun, smear on some of the yogurt spread, and then top with some of the mushrooms. Smear the inside of the top half of the bun with a little more yogurt spread – this will keep the bun from going soft because of the moisture of the mushrooms.

Serve and Enjoy!


-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pancake Battered Onion Rings



It’s barbeque season and everyone is gorging themselves on burgers. I love me a good burger not just for the patty with a variety of toppings and a condiment or three but also for the SIDES! Be it French fries, potato salad, coleslaw or onion rings, a burger isn’t a burger without them. Which is why, while I was testing burger recipes, I came up with this one for onion rings.

Onion rings are great and they come in a couple of forms, either batter fried or breaded. I like a cross between the two because the batter helps the breading stick and the breading makes the rings extra crispy. I used pancake batter out of necessity as my mother gifted me with a 5 kg bag of mix from Costco. Since I don’t eat pancakes that often, I have to find alternative ways of using it and the mix with leaveners already mixed in works surprisingly well.

Though this recipe will technically serve 4, feel free to double it as the rings won’t last.

They’re THAT good!

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium
Total Prep and Cook time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients

1 Large Onion, Peeled, Sliced into 1 Inch Slices and Separated into rings

2 Cups of Instant, Just-Add-Water Pancake Mix

1 ½ Cups of Water - You may need to adjust this amount if necessary. You want a batter that's thick enough to stick to a piece of onion but thin enough to not be heavy and clumpy.

2 Cups of Panko Bread Crumbs – Available in the Asian Foods’ section or fish section of major grocery store chains and in Asian markets

1 Teaspoon of Garlic Powder

2 Teaspoons of Salt, divided

2 half Teaspoons of Pepper, divided

½ a Teaspoon of Regular or Smoked Paprika

1 Teaspoon of Oregano or Mediterranean Seasoning – Use what you have

6 Cups of Frying Oil i.e. Canola, Crisco, Sunflower, Corn, Grapeseed, Vegetable – any of these will do

Equipment

1 Deep Pot or Deep Fryer

1 Long Pair of Tongs

1 Shallow Baking Dish

1 Fork

1 Mixing Bowl

1 Plate or Baking Dish Lined with Paper Towels

1 Wooden Spoon


In a mixing bowl, combine the pancake mix, water, garlic powder, 1 Teaspoon of Salt, and half a Teaspoon of Pepper and mix everything together with a fork. The salt, pepper, and garlic powder will make this batter savory, not sweet.

Set the batter aside.

In a shallow baking dish, combine the panko, paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of pepper, and the oregano or Mediterranean seasoning and mix so the spices are distributed evenly.

Heat the oil in your pot or deep fryer until bubbles form around the handle of a wooden spoon when it’s inserted in the oil. If you’re using a deep fryer with temperature controls, you want the oil at 350 oF.

Dip an onion ring in the pancake batter so it’s fully immersed and then pull it out, gently shaking off the excess.

Dip the ring in the breadcrumbs to coat and GENTLY (so the oil doesn’t splash) drop it in the oil.

Repeat with 3 or 4 more rings to fry them 4 or 5 at a time.

Fry the onions rings until the edges are golden (about 2-3 minutes) and then CAREFULLY flip them over using your tongs.

Fry the onion rings for another minute or two and then move them to your paper towel-lined plate – the towel will absorb any excess oil.

Repeat the process until you’re out of batter and bread crumbs. Any pieces of onion you have left you can chop up and throw into other dishes or use to top your burger.

Now enjoy your onion rings as is or with your favorite dipping sauce or condiment!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.




  




Sunday, June 5, 2016

Crazy Good Crumble

Strawberry Raspberry Pineapple Crumble

Summer is almost here and all the fresh fruit it has to offer is produced closer to home and available at reasonable prices. Walk through your grocery store. I guarantee that berries and other fruits which are pricey in the winter will suddenly go on sale. Seasonal fruit is great because it solves the fundamental dinner party or backyard BBQ question:

What do I make for dessert?

Instead of wasting your money on a pricey bakery item, why not make a crumble?

Crumbles are the first desserts I learned to bake. Taught to me in home economics’ class in high school, they’re impossible to screw up and guaranteed crowd-pleasers because they’re low in fat and take only a bit more effort than serving the fruit as is. When choosing fruit in the grocery store, follow your nose; we humans have evolved so that good fruit and veg will have a pleasing odor. Don’t be afraid to sniff the fruit before you buy it. If it smells good, you’re good to go!

Now bring it home with you and make that crumble!


Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep  time: 10-15 Minutes
Bake Time: 35 Minutes

Serves 6 or more

Ingredients

FRUIT FILLING

3 ½ Cups of Seasonal Fruit, cleaned and chopped – I used strawberries, raspberries, and pineapple for my crumble, but use whatever is in season

¼ Cup Unsweetened Apple Sauce

1 Heaping Tablespoon of Brown Sugar

Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon – Lemon juice makes the flavors of most fruit shine extra bright.

1 Pinch of Salt

1 Tablespoon of Cornstarch – Keep your filling from getting too soupy

CRUMBLE TOPPING

1 Cup of Butter or Margarine

1 Cup of Rolled Oats

1 Cup All Purpose or Whole Wheat Flour – The topping is supposed to be crunchy, so the type of flour doesn’t matter that much

¾ Cup Brown Sugar

2 Teaspoons of Cinnamon

1 Teaspoon of Salt


Equipment

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Measuring Cups and Spoons

2 Big Mixing Bowls

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Baking Dish – The dimensions of the dish will depend on you. If you like a dryer fruit dessert, use a rectangular baking pan. If you like something that’s fruitier and soupier, use a deep brownie pan

Baking Spray

Preheat the oven to 350 oF.

In your first mixing bowl, dump in all the ingredients for the filling and give it all a quick stir with a wooden spoon to combine and evenly distribute the cornstarch.

Stick the bowl in the fridge while you prepare the crumble top.

Wipe the excess moisture from your wooden spoon with a paper towel or clean tea towel.

In your second mixing bowl, add the oats, flour, cinnamon, brown sugar and salt and stir everything with your now dry-ish wooden spoon to combine.

Add the butter or margarine and press everything together with your fingertips using pinching motions. By pinching the butter into the dry ingredients you’re forcing them to accept the fat. By using your fingertips – which are cooler than your palms – you’re preventing the butter from melting too much while you work. Do this until your mixture takes on the texture of damp sand.

You’re now ready to assemble your crumble.

Spray your baking dish with cooking spray and pour in the fruit mixture, spreading it evenly throughout the pan with the back of the wooden spoon.


Pour the crumble top over the fruit, making sure the fruit is completely covered.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the tips of the crumble top are golden brown.

Cool on the counter for 10 minutes  and serve!

Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.