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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Finger Food

Sometimes you just don't feel like a sit-meal, right?

Sometimes you want to just have the 'food-to-mouth' ordeal to be as painless and simple as possible.

You don't?

Well, sometimes I like to make finger food meals.

Meals wherein as little effort as possible is expended in eating, but also wherein every mouthful can be a little different, if you choose.

So, to succeed at this sort of thing, you need variety.  You can't just put down three things and as long as they're 'bite-sized', be OK.  

I mean, you can keep it simple, and revolve around a 'theme', like I like to do...

In fact, tonight's finger-food meal was basically just 'things-to-put-on-bread'.

On the line-up, we had...

Roasted Tomatoes:

Roasted Red Pepper:

Roasted Garlic:

Fresh Burrata-Like Cheese (I actually FORGET what this was... it wasn't Burrata... but it was LIKE Burrata... Sorry...)  I CAN tell you that it was delicious, though... :

Red-Wine Pecorino:

And a high-quality, SHARP Cheddar:

I also threw out a plate of nice EVOO & Balsamic... although the wife doesn't like Balsamics... (sigh).

Oh!  And the star of the evening, the BREAD!

Yummy, delicious, freshly home-made, classic french white:

Mmmmmmmmmmmm...  I love fresh bread sooooo much.  That could very well be the reason for this whole meal... as it all complements, and showcases, the bread.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thanksgiving... Pork Roast?


Sometimes we just like to break with convention.  Throw accepted norms out in the compost bin and just cook whatever we feel like.

Well, this October, we gave thanks over a lovely, tiny little pork tenderloin.

I had some fresh thyme, which I shoved in all the places where the sun didn't shine... as well as a few more...

Some smoked sea salt and some fresh green peppercorn as a rub... but the magic really happened with the bacon.

Yah.  Pork on Pork action.

We went all out.  It was Thanksgiving after all.

What I wanted to do was sear the roast real quick, to get that lovely browned exterior and yummy crispy flavour, so I actually did this BEFORE adding the bacon.

And here is why:  if I put the bacon on before roasting, it would just result in crispy bacon wrapped around a moist pork roast.  Which would be fine, I guess... but it wasn't what I wanted.

So after the roast got a nice searing, that's when I wrapped a few pieces of bacon overtop.

Sprinkle some freshly ground peppercorns on there, and it's good for the 'long haul'. Of course, by this I mean the long, slow roast at low temp.

The result was the best of both worlds, a nice seared roast with a lot of moisture inside.

But the best part, perhaps, is the gravy.  Bacon-infused gravy.  Yum!

I roasted some carrots in the pot, and they got nice and moist and sweet, with just the right amount of thyme-infused bacon-y flavour.

But other than that we just had mashed potatoes.  Can't have gravy without mashed potatoes.  That's something I got from the wife.

All-in-all, it was a VERY simple Thanksgiving for two.


So good.

We don't do meat all that often, but when we do, I like that it is like THIS:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Roasted Everything Sauce

So anyone who's looked even sparsely through this blog, would see that I make a lot of pasta sauces.  Especially tomato-based sauces.  Something I don't always do, however, is make roasted veggie sauces.

Roasting vegetables brings out an amazing deep, richness of flavour.  Sure it is arguable that you might lose a few nutrients this way, but once in a while it is absolutely worthwhile.

This sauce, cheekily named "Roasted Everything Sauce" would most accurately be labelled as a "Roasted Tomato, Red Pepper, Onion, Fennel, and Garlic Sauce".

Because I went nuts and roasted ALL of those veggies.


Anyway, this one is loosely dedicated to my brother; it's 100% vegan, organic... and it uses a high powered food processor.

Anyway, here you can see ALL of my prep veggies.

Clockwise from top-left, we have (organic): tomatoes, red pepper, italian parsley, oregano, thyme, fennel (root as well as 'leaves'), garlic, green onion, white onion, red onion.


In many ways this sauce is difficult, but in others, it is actually quite easy.  Mostly it is time-consuming.  I often write about 15-minute (or less) meals, including pasta sauces, but this one is decidedly NOT quick.

The prep alone took close to ten minutes.  Chopping, slicing, dicing, and wrapping in aluminium foil.  But then there's a good hour of resting, which is nice if you've opened a nice red wine to go with your upcoming meal.

It's pretty simple though, I sliced the fennel and onion coarsely, ensuring that everything was roughly the same size in their respective foil envelopes.  This just makes sure that you can cook everything for about the same time, without needing to worry about allocating different times for different items.

The garlic I left whole so it could last as long as the others, but even still these were the ones which got a touch over-roasted.  Nothing disastrous or anything, but they were definitely the limiting variable in the mix.

The red pepper is the opposite.  The 'big daddy' in the mix so-to-speak.  He got cored and coated in canola oil, but was otherwise left whole, and upside down in the middle of the pan.

The tomatoes were all also cored, but sliced in half.  Also lightly coated in some canola oil and arranged neatly with their cut sides facing up.

Then it was into the oven at 375° for about an hour.

Yup.  An hour.

You can check on it as that time approaches if you like, but everything should be just fine.  375° isn't really enough to do much damage to these guys in that short a time. Provided you protected the delicate veggies properly (don't skimp on the aluminium foil!)

While this is happening, you can of course get everything else ready.  I started some water for my pasta, I cleaned up a little bit, and I prepped all my herbs... all of which I will purposely set aside.

But there's no reason why I can't utilize this time to get them nicely chopped.

Before these got viciously Santoku-ed ⤴ 

After ⤴

Yes, my Santoku knife made short work of these herbs, and then I set them nice and prettily aside for now.

You'll see why.So, after an hour of the veggies roasting, you've not only got an AMAZINGLY smelling house, but all the veggies are gorgeously browned, and (literally) bursting with flavour.

Most of this just gets scraped directly into my awesome new food processor.

But the red pepper needs to be skinned and de-seeded first.

So the flesh of the pepper gets added to the processor:

But the skin and the seeds get discarded.

Then it's GO time on the processor.


Not enough tomato flavour though, so I threw in two (small) cans of organic tomato paste.

I've talked about this before, about how I don't feel badly about buying somethings in 'canned' form.  Basically it comes down to ingredients.  There is hardly any 'processing' to tomato paste, and the ingredients (of the good kind, anyway) are literally just "Organic Tomatoes".

So... feel good about canned tomato paste people, and - like me - keep your cupboard STOCKED with the stuff!

After that gets puréed in with the roasted veggies, it's ready to be religiously spatula-d out into my slow cooker.

You certainly don't have to use a slow cooker, in fact, this doesn't really need a lot of time to be honest, most of the rich flavour is already in there.  But I wanted to give the sauce some time to 'mellow'.  Mostly this means mingle with everything in there - it is a relatively complex sauce - but also to just relax for a while.  Those veggies did undergo a fair bit of stress and duress after all.  ;)

So I gave them a generous helping of some of the red wine I had opened, stirred in the herbs I had set aside, added a generous portion of freshly-ground black pepper, and a decent dash of sel gris, and then we both relaxed for about another hour and a half.

The sauce and I.


When we finally did come together again, it was to joyous (and only slightly inebriated) acclaim!

This sauce was so good.  I won't even try to describe it.  Well OK, I will try.

The first thing on the tongue is the deep earthy acridness of the roasted red pepper, but is followed almost instantly by the velvety sweet tang of the roasted tomatoes.  

Shortly after this comes a bevy of nutty and intense garlic, onion, and fennel, each adding to the mix rather than competing in any way.  The last of these, the soft and mellowed licorice aroma from the fennel, leads the way for the 'accent' pieces to show off, the fresh herbs.

The pleasing floral notes of the oregano and thyme flirt playfully with each other in a well-known and time-honoured dance; one that was choreographed long, long ago, in a far away and ancient Mediterranean.  Finishing last but with zest nonetheless, is the fresh and crisp parsley; subtle and understated, you might almost miss it, but it leaves the entire mouthful feeling rounded off and... sated.

These pictures truly don't do it justice.  Nor did my choice of pairing it with freakin' multi-grain fusilli.  Really I should have chosen a nice fresh penne or orecchiette or something.

Oh well...

It was still amazing.

The best part, however, is that I made so much of it, I had a great deal of leftovers.

These weck jars are very good at keeping things fresh, with a great seal, so I'm not worried about these going bad.

I put them in the fridge, and will probably use them up within a few weeks, but I would wager to guess that they would be fine much longer than that.  I'm pretty sterile with my culinary practices, and this sauce was super hot going in.  It probably could have been fine in the cupboard... but it won't hurt to keep it in the fridge for a while.


So yah.

Vegan, organic, and really really good for you, this was too good to describe, despite my having tried.

When the wife tried this sauce she was literally speechless for a second and her eyes popped.  She's the established foodie, and as such, often the yardstick I use for my culinary spatterings.

I am confident this one scored highly indeed.