Bife a Cavalo

Bife a Cavalo

Before Rachel Ray. my Mom was (and still is) the fastest cook I know. She would have my brother and I time her, just to prove that her making food at home was just as quick, if not quicker than going to a fast food place (which is what my brother and I usually wanted) This dish is as close as Portuguese cuisine gets to fast food; only tastier and I’m sure, healthier.

I’m pretty sure this is my brother’s favourite dish, second maybe only to Shepherds Pie. I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, adding sauted onions and mushrooms to the plate, since they go so well with everything else in the dish. Bife a Cavalo, literally means “Beef Steak, Horse-style,” which makes not sense to me. The only thing I can think of is that it’s a meal for someone who is as hungry as a horse. That would make sense, since it is alot of food and is a quick dish to make. I’ll go with that interpretation until I (or you) hear different.

So as a tribute to my Mom who made this, and many other dishes in 30 minutes flat, and my brother, who convinced me to start this blog in the first place, I present ” Beef steak if you’re as hungry as a horse” :)

Ingredients (For 2)

2 thin fast fry beef steaks

2 cloves of garlic, chopped in quarters

1 onion, coarsely chopped

6 or so mushrooms, coarsely chopped

2 potatoes, cut for fries

2 eggs

salt & pepper

1. If you want to deep fry the potatoes (the traditional way) do it closer to the end so that they stay warm. I personally do not like deep frying so I chose to bake my potatoes on a baking sheet with some oil @ 400 F for 15 minutes. You could just as easily use pre cut french fries and bake them. Your choice.

2. Heat some oil in a medium sized skillet and add the garlic to infuse it. Add the beef steaks being sure to brown each side. Season with salt and pepper. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the steak.

3. Remove beef from skillet and place one steak on its own plate and cover to keep warm.

4. There should be some juices left in the skillet to saute the onions and mushrooms in. If not, add a little more oil, then saute the onions for a minute and add the mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms have released their juices remove.

5. Divide half of the sauted onions and mushrooms and pile on top of  the steak. Cover the plate again.

6. Still using the same skillet (did I mention I don’t like doing dishes!) add a little bit of oil to fry the eggs. Fry however you like it, although in this case sunny side up is perfect to dip your fries in :)

7. The potatoes should be ready by now, and you can arrange them around the beef piled with the mushroom onion saute.

8. Finally, add the fried egg on top of the sauted mushrooms and onion and check the clock…betcha it was less than 30 minutes!

Sole in garlic dill sauce served with roasted vegetables and chive yogurt sauce

sole-in-a-garlic-dill-sauce-with-roasted-spring-vegtables-001.jpg

I really felt like having two things yesterday, a baked potatoe, you know with all of the fixings…sour cream, bacon, chives, and deep fried battered fish. The thing is that I’m also trying to stay in shape, so I opted for a compromise of sorts.

When I went grocery shopping on Monday, there was a deal to get 3 packages of herbs for $5. Since I don’t have a herb garden (I should get one though…anyone have any advice on how to start one in an apartment??) and I like using fresh herbs I bought a package of basil, bay leaves and a ‘herb medley for fish.’ The ‘medley’ included chives, dill and lemongrass. So I figured I could use dill for the fish, in this case sole, and chives for my ‘baked’ potatoe craving. I’ll admit, I kind of improvised with this one. I knew I wanted to use the herbs, and I knew that herbs get along well with fish which can sometimes smell and taste too much like fish. I also didn’t have any sour cream, but I did have some Balkan Style yogurt to work with. Anyways, here’s what I did.

Ingredients (Yield for 2)

Fish

2 filets of sole

2 cloves of garlic, cut in quarters

3 or 4 sprigs of fresh dill, roughly chopped

splash of white wine

salt and pepper to taste

Roasted Vegetables

2 medium sized new potatoes but into small pieces

6 sprigs of asparagus, rough stems removed and cut into thirds

a handful of baby carrots

1/4 tsp garlic powder

salt & pepper

Chive Yogurt Sauce

1/4 cup of good yogurt (i.e. NOT fat free) I used 6 % Balkan Style

juice from half of lemon

a dozen sprigs of chives, chopped

1. Preheat your oven to 400 F

2.  Get some water boiling for the potatoes, and boil them for about 5 minutes. Drain, and mix with the asparagus, carrots and some oil on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are baked through.

3. Oil a non-stick skillet and add the garlic and dill when hot to infuse the oil. Next add the sole filets, being careful to keep them whole.  Flip to other side after a minute or two, turn the heat down and put the lid on the pan.

4. Meanwhile, mix up the yogurt, lemon juice and chives.

Saffron Scallop Rice with Asparagus Wrapped in Presunto

Scallops with Saffron Rice

I was probably 16 or 17 years old when I first tried scallops.  One of my friends ordered scallops wrapped in bacon when we went out for dinner, and after taking a few bites I fell in love with yet another type of seafood. When I went home that night, I remember asking my Mom if she had ever tried scallops and she said she had, but never really liked them. I was slightly annoyed at having been kept in the dark about scallops, just because my Mom, the everyday cook at our house, didn’t like them, and so, didn’t bother buying them. In hindsight, (brought on by my years of wisdom of course ;)  I realize that Mom probably didn’t and still doesn’t like scallops because she didn’t grow up eating them. This may sound like a weak argument, especially when you consider that I didn’t grow up eating sushi, indian, thai, or lots of other things that I eat, but the difference is that I truly adore food, and my Mom, not so much. In any case, I’m pretty sure she would like this, especially if it meant that she didn’t have to cook :)

So that was my scallop history, now onto why this recipe. The Liquor Stores in Ontario have this AMAZING magazine that is published quarterly (I think) and always have really cool recipes for food and drink. I think that’s what the magazine is called, how original :) Anyways, I picked up the latest issue, along with a small  bottle of Bailey’s that is now gone :( and saw this beautiful photograph of pan seared scallops on a bed of something yummy. All day at work, I kept thinking about scallops and trying to remember what the recipe called for (besides scallops) but couldn’t. So then I googled ‘food & wine’ which brought me to a similar magazine based out of Australia (if you’re interested) but alas, no scallop recipe. I finally threw my hands in the air (well in my head, not literally, because I’d look funny doing that at work) and visited my trusty food tv website.  I typed in ‘scallops’ and came up with a few pages of hits….scroll, scroll…’what’s a reduction?’, ‘edame…I don’t think I can get those in this town’, ‘ Scallops, Tapas style’, BINGO! The original recipe didn’t call for rice, just the scallops in the saffron white wine sauce. It didn’t say to add red pepper or garlic either. And the asparagus wrapped in presunto (Portuguese version of proscuitto), well I needed to get my greens in somewhere :)

Ingredients (Yield for 2)

For the Saffron Scallop Rice 

1/2 onion, chopped

1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 red pepper, julienned (fancy word for cut in thin strips)

8 scallops (the bigger ones)

1/4 cup white wine

a few threads of saffron

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup of long grained parboiled rice

Ingredients for Asparagus Wrapped Presunto

 6 stalks of asparagus, washed and stems removed

6 thinly sliced strips of presunto (cured ham)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F to prep it for the asparagus

2. Get a small pot with water for boiling the rice. Follow the instructions on the bag.

3. Heat some oil in a medium sized sauce pan and saute the onions and garlic for a minute or so. Add the red peppers.

4. Push the veggies to one side of the pot,  add a little more oil to the empyu side of the pot and add the scallops. They’ll start releasing their juices, so let them do their thing for another minute or so

5.  You want the scallops to get a pretty brown caramel colour, so start  mixing the veggies (which are probably carmalizing a bit) with the scallops so that all the juices mix and the scallops start to gain some colour. Remember to turn the scallops so that they cook evenly.

6. There should be a little sauce being created at the bottom of your pot. Now add a pinch of saffron and season with salt and pepper.

7. Get a baking sheet and your asparagus wrapped in the presunto. Add a little oil to the baking sheet, arrange the asparagus so there is space between them and put them in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until the asparagus is soft and the presunto sizzling.

8. Once the scallops look cooked (about 5 minutes or so) turn up the heat and add the wine.

9. After a minute or so, add the cooked rice (it should be done by now or just about) and carefully incorporate the scallop mixture.

10. Cook a few more minutes and serve with the asparagus

Sushi Lesson, as promised

So I promised a sushi post, and here it is. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be, but that is probably because I had a good teacher (Thanks Clarence!). I made a night out of it, and invited some people from work too. It ended up being A LOT of fun and great way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the middle of winter.  I should probably mention that we only made California Rolls, using veggies and cooked fish since I didn’t want to be blamed for a half a dozen cases of possible food poisoning. It was still yummy, especially since we all made it, and besides it’s better than what you can buy here, which is no sushi at all.

So onto the sushi lesson…Clarence, being the organized person he is, gave me a list of equipment and food I would need to make my inaugural sushi night a success. Here’s what you should have before you start:

Equipment: 

- rice cooker

-bamboo mats (to roll the sushi)

- sharp knives

- cutting board

- big bowl

- wooden spoon and/or spatula

Food Stuff:

-  short grain calarose rice

- nori (dried and roasted seeweed paper)

- rice vinegar

- sugar

- avocado

- large carrot

- English cucumber

- cooked jumbo shrimp (tails removed)

- crab meat (or imitation crap meat)

- other cooked fish (i.e. smoked salmon, canned salmon…be creative!)

- pickled ginger

- tube of wasabi

- block of cream cheese (goes really well with the smoked salmon)

Optional: sesame seeds, sesame oil, mayo.

Instructions:

First things first, rinse your rice a few times and get it in your rice cooker. You’ll need about 2 cups of rice to make about 4 sushi rolls, which, depending on how thick you cut, will work out to approximately 6 pieces of sushi per roll (~ 24 pieces of sushi in total)

In the meantime, you can start julienning all the vegtables.  For the cucumbers that means, cut them in half (long wise), then cut them longwise again (into quarters) and then cut longwise a third time (into eighths).  It’s the same idea with the advocado; cut it longwise and carefully remove the stone and skin. Then cut it longwise into eighths or sixteenths if you can. The carrots are the most work since you want to end up with carrot pieces the thickness of matchsticks. Just make sure you have a very sharp knife and no where to go in a hurry! Here’s a link with an animated tutorial :) http://makemysushi.com/carrot.html

Next, in a large bowl mix a tbsp. of rice vinegar, a few splashes of sesame oil and a few pinches of sugar.  Once the sugar is dissolved, add abuot 1/3 of the cooked rice and mix well. You want to coat the rice with the mixture and then spread the rice onto the sides of bowl (using your wooden spoon) so that it cools.

Next take once bamboo roll and place one sheet of nori in the middle of it. Now take a heaping spoonful of the rice and place it in the middle of the nori and spread it evenly.

Rice on Nori

Now you add whatever you want in the roll on top of your rice. In this case, it looks like cucumber, advocado, carrots, strips of cream cheese and smoked salmon.

Roll before rolling

Now for the rolling.  Take the bamboo roll, while holding the stuff on top of the rice, roll the whole thing into a long tube, being sure to tuck one end of the roll under the other. Once you have a roll, start compressing the roll so that the ‘insides’ stay inside. The trick is to be as uniform as possible when applying pressure. Be patient, it does take practice!

Rolled Roll

Now its just a matter of cutting the roll and dipping it in some good soy sauce and wasabi.

Here’s another link that will show you an animation of how to roll http://makemysushi.com/how_to_make_sushi.html

Ready to serve

Grandma’s Taters

Grandma’s Taters

In my last post, I mentioned how my grandma has two signature dishes she makes at every family function arroz doce, and these roated potatoes.  There are very rarely leftovers when she makes them, since everyone usually takes seconds. This is a guideline to make these amazing pototoes, since like most seasoned cooks, my grandma doesn’t use any concrete measurements.

Ingredients:

6 to 8 medium yukon gold potatoes (my grandma insists on them), cut into bit size pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

2 or 3 cloves of garlic, cut into quarters

1 tsp. sweet paparika (approximately)

1 or 2 dry bay leaves

2 tbsp. olive oil (approximately)

salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oven to 400 F.

2. Place the cut up potatoes in a flat baking pan (i.e. like those rectangular Pyrex ones) and add all of the other ingredients.  Mix well so that everything is evenly distributed and the potatoes are coated with olive oil.

3.  Cover with tin foil and bake until done (20-30 minutes). Put the broiler on for the last 5 to 10 min so that the top of the potatoes become toasty

4. Tastes great with any kind of roast, or BBQ

Arroz Doce

It was my grandfather’s birthday last weekend so the whole family got together at my
grandparents house on Sunday afternoon for a big meal. When I say big, I mean we had trouble fitting all of the dishes on the table. But that’s my grandma when it comes to food, ‘go big, or go home.’ Everything she made was really good, as usual, but she is known for a few dishes and makes them every time the family is together. Arroz Doce, Portuguese style rice pudding is one of them. I thought I would try my hand at making some myself and bring it to lunch for an informal taste test. So after everyone was done their main course, dessert plates were brought out and the tasting began. I should mention that this wasn’t a controlled tasting by any means. Everyone knew which version was mine and which dish was my grandma’s, and did I mention that we were in my grandparent’s house? Needless to say that I didn’t stand a chance, but I still received some accolades for my interpretation of arroz doce; better than ‘boos.’ Here’s the recipe I used and below you’ll see some key tips to making your arroz doce a success.

Ingredients:

4 cups of water
1/2 tsp. of salt
2 cups of short grain rice (like the kind for risotto)
4 cups of milk
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp. butter
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
zest from one lemon
cinnamon (to decorate)

1. In a large pot, add the water, lemon zest and cinnamon sticks and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Let the lemon and cinnamon infuse the water for about 10 min.

2. Meanwhile, in another pot, add the milk and warm it up so that it’s ‘scalded’ not boiled.

3. Remove the cinnamon sticks from the water and bring the liquid to a rolling boil and add the rice and salt. Be sure to mix it a big so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the
pot.

4. Cook the rice for about 15 minutes, or until it looks like most of the water is absorbed,
then add a few ladles of the scalded milk. Stir occasionally to incorporate the milk.

5. Once it looks like the rice has absorbed the milk add another few ladles of milk and
repeat until you’re left with your last few ladles of milk.

6. Before you add the last bit of milk to the rice, add the sugar to the pot.

7. Finally add the last of the milk. The rice should look very creamy and thick.

8. Pour the dessert either into a large serving platter, or you can use individual ramekins.
Decorate with cinnamon either with designs or just sprinkled on top. Let it set at room
temperature or in the fridge.

Important things to remember:

I think there are a few key things you have to remember when making this dish. One, although most recipes I found call for 1 cup of sugar or less, it tastes better if you add closer to 1 1/2 cups. I think this has to do with the fact that one usually serves this dish at room temperature or slightly chilled which tends to make it taste less sweet than when it’s on the stovetop. Two, make sure the rice is cooked all the way through or the milk and sugar won’t penetrate the the rice. Lastly, avoid stirring the pot too much or you’ll end up with a gooey mushy dessert. Low heat and occasional stirring in the key.

The road to Pad Thai…sort of

Right, have I mentioned that I am currently working in a very small town in SW Ontario? Well if I haven’t now you know. Well anything that doesn’t consist of meat and/or potatoes is hard to find here. Not that there is anything wrong with meat and potatoes, but sometimes I feel like something else. I suppose if I were to look at this in a positive light, the fact that I can’t find things like pad thai or sushi here has driven me to learn how to make them…case in point. (Stay tuned for a sushi lesson in the near future)

This is my 2nd attempt at pad thai, which was better than the first, but it’s still a work in progress. I’m not sure what’s missing, but I think I’m getting closer. What I’m trying to get at, is that this recipe isn’t exactly 100%, but I haven’t posted anything all week and really wanted to. So think of this as a base from which to begin your personal homemade pad thai experience. When I try it again, I will post a picture (I had eaten it all by the time I realized that I hadn’t taken a picture…oops!) So without further a due, the beginnings of a great pad thai recipe (one day!)

Here are the sites I went to for inspiration.

http://www.thaitable.com/Thai/recipes/Pad_Thai.htm

http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/recipes/padthai.html

Ingredients: (Enough for (2) people or (1) very hungry person ;)

1/2 package pad thai noodles

1/2 package firm tofu, cut into 1 cm strips

3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 handful of bean sprouts

1 egg

3 or 4 tbsp. fish sauce

juice from 1/2 lime

pinch of sugar

chili powder and/or chili sauce to taste

cilantro, chopped

1. Get your noodles into a bowl of hot water from the tap. Make sure they are all nice and covered up in their bath and then leave them there for a bit.

2. If you have a wok, here’s it’s time to shine. If you’re in the same boat as me and wok-less, a big pot works too. So, heat up some oil and add the onions and garlic being sure to stir things around so nothing burns.

3. Next add the tofu. It tastes better when it’s a little crispy on all sides. Be careful when you’re mixing the tofu because it’ll break apart. So just sort of flip it on all of its sides until things are looking golden and pretty

4. Now take the noodles from their warm bath, drain them and add them to the pot. Stir things up quick to avoid the noodles from sticking to the bottom.

5. Add the fish sauce, chili powder and/or sauce, sugar and lime juice and keep things stirred

6. Here’s the tricky part. Slide all the stuff in the pot to one side so you have an empty space at the bottom of the pan. That’s where the egg is going to go and be fried. The first time I tried this, the egg jsut sort of stuck to the bottom of the pan and kind of burnt. This time, I added a little more oil and then added the egg. If you have a non-stick wok, you won’t have this problem, but I just thought I’d warn you about my experience.

So fry up the egg, and once you see the yok is pretty much cooked, gently fold in the rest of the noodles/tofu/onions/ garlic mix so that everything is well distributed

7. Add the bean sprouts and some chopped cilantro and turn off the heat.

8. Garnish with more cilantro, and some lime.