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Monday, April 30, 2012

Pan-seared Heirloom Carrots

Whose idea was it to pick up this bag of heirloom carrots from the farmers' market?  Why yes, dear, it was yours.  Your genius foresight continues to be a source of humbling wonder, and I am rightly cowed by its magnificence. 

In all seriousness, though, it is often my darling, dulcet, wife who continues to push my culinary horizons and encourage my dietary adventuring.  I wouldn't be the cook that I am today without her sometimes subtle, sometimes not so much, nudgings.


It's not that I am, or ever have been, particularly against the idea of heirloom carrots... it's just that my wife alighted upon them in the market, and has delighted upon them in the fridge since.



They were already in a nice, neat-and-tidy, ziploc baggie from the vendor, so I decided the night before to soak them in a mild brine kind of thing.  Very mild.  There was really only about a spoonful of salt in there.  Salt, and a pinch of brown sugar.

They "marinated" overnight, and stayed this way, until right before cooking.

At which point I took them out and tossed them with some cumin and marjoram that I just freshly ground.


Great flavour combo BTW.  My first time trying this pairing, but it worked very well!

Anyway, toss them in a large pan, give a quick drizzle of oil, and a tiny splash (like, less than a tablespoon) of water, and then bring up to medium heat for a good 15 to 20 minutes.  That's pretty much it.

Here's a visual chronology of these carrots' journey:

Delicious.  There was no need to add salt, as there was a pleasant hint of it absorbed already, and the cumin and marjoram played very well off of each other.  I'll definitely do something like this again.

Grilled Pork Loin Chops in Blackberry Sauce

Like much of the meat products we purchase these days, this trio of boneless pork loin chops were from a larger set (of nine) which we initially split into smaller, meal-sized portions and froze separately.  So, I took this bag of three out to defrost and marinade overnight the day before.

Incidentally this marinade was quite simple.  Mostly water, with a spoonful of salt, a pinch of brown sugar, a splash of bitters, and a dash of oregano.

This I covered in cling-film and it sat in my fridge overnight, not coming out until right before grilling them.

I started the blackberry sauce first, because it needed the most effort.

I had some garlic and onion slurry left over from another dish I made, which I added some starchy potato water to, and then dumped in a pint of blackberries.

Because this was going to be a savory fruit sauce rather than a sweet one, I put a pinch of salt and pepper in.

Then it got nicely pureed with my indispensable immersion blender.

This then put in a small saucepan to simmer, on low heat, for the remainder of my time in the kitchen.  He can pretty much sit by itself without supervision... he'll need a stir or two before serving of course, but for the most part we just want to slowly evaporate the water in the mix.

So... now to the fun stuff.

I turn on my overhead stove fan in advance.

Then I heat up my heavy, oh-so-heavy, iron skillet on medium-high heat.

I take out the pork chops, and give them a little drizzle of olive oil, turning them about a bit to get them covered in it.

Then, checking to make sure the pan is ready first, I carefully lay them across the pan.  Space them apart as much as your pan will let you, and they'll cook much better.

About 2 to 3 minutes on the first side, then gently flip them with some tongs, and give em another minute or two on the second side.  They should not need more than 4 or 5 minutes!!!  Even for a 'medium-well' cooking state!


Anyway, after they were done, I plated them, and then drizzled a moderate amount of blackberry sauce on top.

They were delicious.  And pretty darn easy to make!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rosemary and Garlic Potato Casserole

This dish is fairly self-evident, I'd like to think... Potatoes, with rosemary and garlic, baked in the oven.

But, as with all things, I make it a little more complicated.

I chopped up some potatoes (about 7 medium-sized yukon golds, if you must know), and set them to boiling.  

Whenever boiling potatoes, use the biggest pot you've got.  It can get messy.  In fact, one trick I just decided upon this go around was, once my water started boiling, I actually removed it from the stove, and put it in my sink and added my potatoes there.  This was a genius plan.  Normally this rather trying endeavour sees me daintily plopping two or three chunks of potatoes in at a time, in order to avoid splash-back.  Unsuccessfully, I do admit.  So, this way I was able to not only dump all the potatoes in much faster, but also avoid messing up my stove-top.  Did somebody say genius?  Oh yah - did!  Heh hehe heh.  :D

Anyway, the potatoes boiled for close to 30mins...

<Meanwhile> (80s flashback-twinkle sound effect plays)...

I needed to use up some rosemary.  It was going bad.  Normally I'd take care to pick out the blackened bits, but seeing as how I plan on making this all into a kind of slurry puree thingy, it won't really matter much.

So, I stripped the rosemary, chopped about 5 large-ish cloves of garlic, 2 green onions, and milled some spices, all to go into my blender.

For the spices, I ground up some green peppercorns, a few fennel seeds, and a dash of oregano.  I didn't want to overpower the rosemary, after all.

Anyway, this got pureed for a minute in the immersion blender, with a generous tablespoon of olive oil for lubricant.

This then got poured into a large mixing bowl and set aside for the taters.

Once the potatoes were fully cooked (yes, fully cooked), I drained them and then tossed them in this herb puree.

Try to be as gentle as possible in turning them over in the slurry... but inevitably, some mashing will occur.  That's OK.

Coat the mix in a dusting of flour or three, turning the potatoes over each time, to ensure it's relatively even.

At this point it's just dump em in a greased (well) baking pan or casserole dish, and bake at 400° for as long as you want.  

This sort of thing is designed to be *almost* burn-proof.  Especially if you give it a stir once in a while.  This particular batch cooked for about an hour and a half, but I've been known to cook this sort of concoction for twice as long.

So, after an hour and a half, and two stirrings later, this is what we were left with:

Mouth-watering, deliciously warming, comfort food.

You could add some form of dairy in here too... and it's delicious, but honestly, this vegan  version doesn't really need it and is very good as it is.

Also, the rosemary could be substituted (or omitted) for any fresh green herb really... potatoes work well with pretty much any of them... some of my favourites include oregano, thyme, even dill weed!

Fun stuff.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blueberry Bread Pudding

I don't really make a lot of bread puddings... nor have I even eaten very many in my lifetime.  I could probably count on one hand all of the bread pudding experiences I've ever had.

I mean... I like bread pudding... I just never really do it all that often.

It's easy to make though, and this particular recipe followed no recipe at all, in truth.  This was all off the top of my head, and was essentially like baked french toast kind of.

Anyway... here is my recipe for absolutely delicious Blueberry Bread Pudding.

I apologize for the state of some of the photos.  My camera ran out of juice about half-way through making this, so the latter half of these were taken with my phone camera!  Boo!

So... I started with some homemade rosemary bread I had baked the night before.  Homemade bread doesn't really last that long, so it was good to use it in this way.  I'm certain that this is what the French had in mind when they refer to Pain Perdu (literally: lost bread).  Anyway, some egg and milk and no matter how stale your bread, it will likely be saved.

So I started by crumbling (loosely) my leftover bread with my fingers.

In a separate mixing bowl, I mixed together, two eggs, some lemon zest, and a generous spoonful of vanilla.

To this, I slowly added some milk (3%).  In increments, so as to gauge how much was needed.  Cream would work too... but I used milk.  Anyway, for this I used probably about a half-cup of milk (125ml).

I then poured this into the bread, and let it soak, stirring it about briefly.

Next, I greased my baking pan, and set it aside:

At this point I judged that I didn't really have enough bread pudding.  :)

So, I grabbed a couple heels of bread from a loaf in the fridge, and chopped it up.

(I apologize, here's where we rely on my phone's camera for the shots)

I added this, stirred it about, and let it soak again for a minute or two.

Then, I rinsed and drained a pint of blueberries, and stirred those in as well.

After that, it just gets poured into the baking pan, and patted gently around with my wooden spoon, so as to help it 'settle' in the pan.

Next, I sprinkled a light dusting of cinnamon on top, and then covered it tightly with tin foil.

Into the oven this goes, for about 20 to 25 minutes at 350°.

And, when it comes out:


It was warm and gooey, moist and perfect.

It was great on its own, but I admit (because we had this for brunch) we did pour some syrup on top.  Heh heh heh.

I wish my camera had captured it better.

Oh well.  You'll have to take my word on it that it was freaking awesome.