Maple Mustard Glazed Pork Tenderloin.

It’s finally getting nice and hot outside, so I wanted to make something we could do on the BBQ. We haven’t had pork in a while, and one of my

Finished Meal

Finished Meal

favourite cuts is the tenderloin–and it’s great on the grill. Only yesterday we had a thunderstorm warning, so I decided to roast it instead. The recipe below was inspire by one I found on http://www.allrecipes.com, for Maple Marinated Pork Tenderloin.

The recipe is simple, and you can follow the link for details. Basically, the marinate consists of maple syrup and dijon mustard with some garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Let the meat marinade for several hours. I let it go overnight, then turned it over in the morning to soak again until I got home from work. Be sure to use some of the marinade to baste it, and definitely be sure to leave it in the fridge.

The recipe above is for the grill, but it’s easily done in the oven as well. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F, and put the meat in a shallow pan. You can drizzle it with some more of the marinade, but it should be discarded or cooked after that; after eight hours of soaking, it’ll be filled with bacteria. Cooking it will kill the bacteria, so if you use “raw” marinade to baste the pork while it’s cooking, make sure you give it long enough to cook. I played it safe and discarded it.

The recipe also called for a glaze, but I decided to make some from scratch instead of reducing and cooking the marinade as suggested. It’s the same recipe as before: maple syrup, then a dollop of mustard, salt and pepper to taste. Only this time, I brought it to a boil and let it boil for about a minute. This reduced the sauce to make it nice and thick. If you draw a line in the pan with a spoon, the glaze should be thick enough that the line stays. Note the picture below: that line was there for several minutes, perfect for a nice thick glaze.

Cook the tenderloin for between 25 and 35 minutes, checking to see when it’s done. It’s pork, so it should be cooked all the way through; you can use a meat thermometer, but we just cut into it. When it’s done, slice it into medallions and drizzle with the glaze–not too much, it’s pretty sweet! We added some roasted veggies and edamame for a complete meal.

The vegetables were easy. I boiled the potatoes and carrots for about two minutes, then drained them. While they were still hot I added a couple tablespoons of butter, and about a tablespoon each of rosemary and fresh dill. Mix it up and put it in the oven when the tenderloin has about ten minutes left. Easy!

As for the Maple Syrup–store bought is fine, but we lie to make our own. It’s incredibly simple.

Just put sugar and water in a pan and bring to a boil–the ratio is always one part water to two parts sugar. Once it boils clear, take it off the burner and add some maple flavouring–or, actually, any kind of flavouring you like. (Use almond extract instead for some tasty syrup for your waffles!) Once it cools, you’ll have a moderately thin syrup; boil it just a tad longer and it’ll thicken easily. Also, if you do equal parts sugar and water and forego the flavouring, you’ll have Sugar Syrup, a perfect sweet addition to any cold, hot or alcoholic drink because it dissolves immediately.

Now, after all that, I should assure you: the dish above looks a whole lot more complicated than it actually was. All of the prep–aside from the initial marinade–was done while the tenderloin cooked, so the meal was on the table in about 40 minutes. Perfect supper for a rainy day!

James

 

Deconstructed Chef Salad

It’s been a few days since our last post, so I thought I’d put up two today.

Deconstructed Chef Salad

Deconstructed Chef Salad

The first is a quick meal we had last Monday. We’d intended to have falafels–not fresh cooked, never again We have a bag of frozen falafels we got at the grocery store. They’re not as good as you can find elsewhere, but they’re pretty good. And it’s a simple, healthy  meal; just cook them and add some fresh veggies, and you’re good to go

Only the ones we bought were very freezer burnt. (We really have no luck with falafels). And of course, because you basically only have to defrost the falafels, we didn’t notice it until all the vegetables were prepared. So we came up with a quick plan B: we boiled some eggs.

Harboiled eggs can be tricky until you get the hang of it–then they’re the easiest thing in the world. Nice to have in the fridge, they’ll keep for a few days; cut them up for breakfast, bring one for lunch for a quick bit of protein, or chop them and make egg salad. Or, as we did that night, make Chef Salad.

Here’s a fool proof way to hardboil your eggs:

  • Get six or seven eggs in a shallow pot, and cover them with water–about an inch over the top of the egg.You should put enough eggs in one pot that there’s not much room to move around; otherwise, the boiling water will jostle them and one or two are sure to break while cooking.
  • Add a half teaspoon of baking soda to the water; this lowers the pH level of the egg, which, believe it or not, will help the shell peel more easily. (Thanks to Tim Ferriss for this tip).
  • Bring the water to a boil, and let it boil for about twelve minutes.
  • Then, take them off the heat immediately and run under cold water in the sink, until all the water is as cold as you can get it. Add ice if you like. This will stop the cooking of the eggs. Then, peel and serve!

A chef salad is basically a nice garden salad with hard boiled egg and ham. We didn’t have any ham, but the amount of vegetables I prepared was more than enough for a meal.

As a bonus, here’s a neat video of how to quickly remove your hard boiled egg from the shell. (Note: I haven’t actually tried this yet…but now I can’t imagine any other way.)

James

Easy Curry Chicken

Serve over rice

I’m a big fan of Indian food–though I’ll admit I don’t have much experience cooking it for myself. On my list of things to learn to cook are some good traditional Indian dishes–paneer, aloo jeera, aloo gobi, and a litany of others. We’ll get to it some day.

In the meantime, my mother-in-law has a great and very simple recipe for curried chicken. Both of us were tired from a long week at work last night, but this only took about half an hour to whip up–and most of that waiting for the rice to cook.

We used one chicken breast and ended up with three servings–lunch the next day!–but you could use two with the same proportion for the rest of the ingredients, and have a larger yield. You’ll need:

  • Chicken breasts, cut into large-ish chunks
  • Onions
  • Flour
  • Cooking oil/butter
  • Vegetables (optional; cut into chunks)
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp dried dill (or a healthy handful fresh)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Cup chicken broth

Dredge the chunks of chicken in flour, and brown it lightly on all sides in a skillet. You don’t want to cook it too much right now! Throw in the chopped onions and saute until they’re transparent.

At this point, I realized we didn’t have any onions–so I cut up some sweet peppers and tossed them in instead. You could add pretty well any vegetables you want; carrots, cauliflower, etc. Peas would go great with this recipe, though I’d put them in not long before it’s served so they’re nice and crisp.

Once everything is browned and sauteed, sprinkle the mixture with the curry and dill. Add more or less to taste. If you’re using dried dill, remember to crush it in your hand before putting it in the pan; this should be done with all dried herbs, as it allows the oils to get through and improves the flavour. Also, when using dried herbs the general rule is to use three times as much as fresh–but play with it according to your tastes.

After adding the spices and herbs, add your broth and mix well. Simmer, covered, until the chicken is done. This is where most of the cooking takes place; if you cooked it too much while browning, the chicken will absorb less of the flavour from the spices, and won’t be as tender and juicy.

Once the chicken is done, add your mayonnaise. You could use plain yoghurt as well; the idea is to thicken the broth to make a nice sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. At this point, I turned up the heat to full for a minute or two, letting the water boil off to make an even thicker sauce.

Serve hot over rice. We added some sliced almonds–why not?

This is one of those dishes where you can play around with the recipe any way you like. Add more vegetables; toss some toasted almonds in there, and so on. We tried cooking the rice with tumeric, but didn’t add enough, so we’ll try more next time. We also both decided that next time we try this, we’ll be adding some raisins for a nice touch of sweetness.

James and Olivia

Pizza with a Twist

Pizza Twist

Pizza with a Twist

Last night we had a hankering for pizza. Olivia has a great recipe for pizza crust–which is really just a simple baking soda biscuit recipe to which we’ve added flax and caraway seeds. We’ll post that another day.

The only thing was, we didn’t have any pizza sauce. We once tried adding oil and herbs to tomato paste and weren’t happy with the result (here’s a food tip, don’t do that). We had some canned tomatoes, so we could have made a nice sauce; but instead we tried something different.

We used a nice grainy dijon mustard. Sounds different, right? It turned out really well, actually, adding a surprising tang to the pizza. And this opens up a whole world of pizza possibilities. All those specialty pizzas you see at various take out joints make sense now: BBQ sauce, pesto or a curry. We’ll look forward to trying them!

 

Olivia and James

 

Pasta with Veggies and Browned Butter

Finished: Pasta with Browned Butter and Vegetables.

This is one of my personal favorites. It’s fast, simple, and healthy–well, maybe except for all the butter. It took me about 45 minutes from start to finish, but only because I like to take my time while I cook; this meal could probably be on the table in under 30.

I got the inspiration for this recipe from a book called How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. Pasta with Browned Butter and Sage can be found on page 140 (though I should note we’re using an older edition, so it might be different for you). I won’t reproduce the recipe here, but urge you to look up the book–I’ve found it to be an indispensable resource, and it covers a huge range of dishes.

This recipe is a bit different. I started with the vegetables. You can put whatever you’ve got into this dish, though asparagus, sweet peppers and mushrooms are particularly good. We also put broccoli (a staple in our home!), and often throw in some frozen peas or edamame just as it’s finishing so they’re nice and crisp.

I steamed and blanched the asparagus and broccoli–separately, because they’ll cook at different rates–and set them aside. This ensures that they’re not cooked too much, and retain their beautifully vibrant green colour. Meanwhile, I sauteed the other vegetables in some vegetable oil, salt and pepper–and a tiny bit of butter for flavour. That was set aside once finished as well. It’s best to cook/prepare your vegetables first, because the pasta doesn’t take long, and you want to keep a close eye on the butter so it doesn’t burn.

The next step is the browned butter. I used about a quarter cup, but you can use more if you like; you kind of have to go by feel, as you want enough to coat the veggies and pasta, but not so much that it’s swimming in butter. Cook it over low heat–as low as your stove will go–and just after it melts, throw in about a tablespoon of basil. (The original calls for sage, but we prefer basil; rosemary or oregano would go well too, according to taste). Normally I also add a quarter cup or so of grated Parmesan cheese at this point as well; but tonight, I decided to use some shaved Parmesan I found at Safeway.

Note: This was a bit of a mistake. I thought that, being shaved so thinly, it would melt easily–but it didn’t. I ended up with clumps of cheese coated in butter…lesson learned!

Anyway, cook the butter on low heat until it begins to foam and brown. Don’t cook too hot or too long, or it’ll burn–you’ll know it to smell it. When it gets a nice fragrant, almost nutty aroma, it’s done.
Put in all the vegetables (and add the frozen stuff if you have it), and toss until covered. You can keep this on low heat (or none at all) while the pasta cooks.

We used multigrain pasta, because it’s awesome. It has a nice rich flavour, good even by itself, and it really adds to the overall taste of the dish. Cook according to the directions on the package. I suppose most kinds of pasta could be used, but spaghetti, spaghettini  (which is what we used here) or penne is probably best for this recipe.

Cooking Tip #1: When you’re cooking pasta, everyone knows to add a touch of salt to the water. But as we learned from How to Cook Everything, you actually want a decent amount–up to a tablespoon. The water should be briny; this will help enhance the flavour of the pasta.

Cooking Tip #2: Does your water boil over whenever you make pasta? You should be using a lot of water, so it’s likely. One thing we learned is to place a wooden spoon across the top of the pot. The boiling water will hit the spoon, and diffuse before it boils over. (This doesn’t always work, but most of the time it does–and we read it on the internet, so you know it’s true.)

Anyway, once your pasta is ready, take it off the heat and drain it–keeping a couple tablespoons of the water. Put the pasta back in the pot with the leftover water, then toss with the butter/vegetable mixture. Sprinkle some cheese on top, and you’re done!

The Pasta and Browned Butter with Sage recipe is great because it’s so versatile. Start with just the browned butter and some pasta, and go crazy from there. Here’s some ideas to try out:

  • Chop strips of fresh basil to sprinkle over the pasta when it’s done.
  • Add toasted pine nuts or almond slivers to the butter and vegetables.
  • Throw in a sliced jalapeno or Serrano pepper for a nice kick.
  • Toss with baby shrimp or small chunks of crab or pollock.
  • Add even more Parmesan and some cream to make an alfredo sauce.

Be sure to visit Mark Bittman’s website at How to Cook Everything.com

James

Cutting & Gutting a Sweet Pepper

Yellow Pepper

Yellow Pepper

Okay, this food tip might seem so simple it doesn’t need to be mentioned–but I’ll be honest, when I first learned to do this it blew me away.

Olivia and I eat lots of sweet peppers. Besides broccoli, it’s probably our favourite and most used vegetable. Red, green, orange, yellow–it doesn’t matter. They’re good in everything!

Except that white stuff inside. And all the seeds. You’re bound to get seeds everywhere. So here’s an impossibly simple tip to try out:

Off with their heads!

Off with their heads!

Cut the top of the pepper off. Inside is a nice web of seeds and pith. If you put your hand into the pepper, you can curl your fingers around the bundle of seeds. Just twist, pull it out, and discard. Rinse the inside with water to shake loose any seeds that are knocking around in the pepper, and that’s it.

Disassembling the pepper

Disassembling the pepper

Once it’s clean, you can slice it into rings or strips, dice it, or stuff it. And don’t throw away the top; you can snap the pieces clear of the stem easily, trim the pith with a paring knife, and toss them into a salad or stir-fry.

As a bonus, here’s something fun to try with your sweet pepper rings:

James

Last Night’s Supper: Yellow Dotted Fish Accompanied by Caesar Salad and Couscous

Caesar Salad –

The Croutons:

  1. Cut stale-ish bread and/or buns up. We cut them into 2cm cubes – tho it’s nice to have varied sizes.
  2. Spread on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a different spice if you desire (James likes to go a little wild with the spices sometimes so my mouth gets a little overwhelmed ;)).
  3. Sprinkle with a little oil; mix together on pan.
  4. Bake at 425ºF for 5 – 7 minutes, flipping once.
  5. Cool.

The Lettuce: cut it/tear it, wash it, dry it! I love our lettuce spinner – I use it for washing anything leafy and green (actually, it doesn’t have to be just leafy or green). We used to have a lettuce spinner when we were younger – until my mom deemed it not-so-useful and got rid of it (and I shall never let her live it down!). Here’s an easy trick for cutting up a romaine heart that I learned while working in the kitchen with one of my students:

  1. Cut a little at both ends off, discard.
  2. Cut the heart of romaine in half, lengthwise. Now cut both sections lengthwise again so that you have four equal parts. Then, cut into bite size pieces across the width.
  3. Wash well and dry well.
  4. Place in bowl.

The Dressing (compliments of my mom):

In a jar, shake together:

  • 1/4 oil (olive, veggie, canola…)
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Juice of a lemon (try meyers lemons!)
  • Zest of that same lemon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder (or a clove of freshly minced garlic – mmm!)
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Right before serving, put a good amount of the croutons in with the lettuce, pour salad dressing over (use about half of it for one romaine heart), sprinkle with parmesan cheese and toss gently.

Yellow-Dotted Fish:

  • White fish (tilapia and haddock are my fave)
  • Cornmeal
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Wash fish thoroughly and dry well.
  2. On a plate combine cornmeal, salt and pepper (add a dash of paprika if you like!)
  3. Coat fish in cornmeal mixture; place on pan.
  4. Bake in  425ºF for 10-15 minutes, until golden on top and flaky inside. You do not need to flip this.
  5. You can make a little tartar sauce with mayo, mustard and chopped up pickles if you desire (yum!).

Couscous:

We bought a box of couscous that came with spices, raisins and pinenuts (albeit not that many!) already mixed in. We added some sweet bell peppers for a bit of variety. The couscous was pretty straightforward: put the contents in a heat resistant bowl, add bowling water (and chopped peppers), cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Then, fluff with a fork. Done.