HAPPY LABOR DAY!
This is crazy! Where did those summer months go?? I remember as a kid, once we arrived at the Labor Day week-end all those ‘lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer were gone’. Back to school for another year.
One of my fondest memories from childhood summers was my mom’s ‘lunchtime’ family picnics. In the early 1950’s my father was able to purchase another piece of land about four miles (about 6.5 km) from our home place. Between the two farms it became the equivalent of a ‘section’. Before this time, the cattle had to be moved to a community pasture in the foothills where they would have enough grass to graze on over the summer. At that time to transport them, you had no choice but to herd them down the road allowance, to get to their ‘summer’ home, for approximately 20-30 miles (roughly 30-50 km) on foot. To say the least, it was a long grueling event for both the cattle and family members.
The ‘other farm’ as we referred to it, had originally been a slaughter house for the town meat market. It consisted of one large building, corals and a few other buildings. There was a slough on the land which dad had converted to a ‘dug out’ where the cattle could go and drink freely. The land was used for grain crops where in turn the cattle could be pastured on in the summer.
In the summer when dad would be working on the land, instead of my mom just packing a lunch for him that he could take in the morning, she would fix a wonderful ‘picnic lunch’. At about 11:30, mom (with our help) would pack up lunch, complete with plates, silverware, a tablecloth etc., and we would head for the ‘other farm’. There was just the right amount of space between two grain buildings to set up a make-shift table and stools. We would put the table cloth down and spread out our little picnic ‘feast’. Dad would be so surprised and we would all enjoy our lunch immensely. Mom always knew how to make the most simple things fun for us.
Okay, so now that I’ve taken you on a little side trip down memory lane, here are some nice ribs for your Labor Day picnic.
Slow Roasted Baby Back Ribs
In a bowl, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, water, garlic, green onions, sesame oil & seasonings, stirring until sugar dissolves.
Place ribs in a large resealable plastic freezer bag. Pour marinade over the ribs, squeeze out all the air & refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
When ready to cook the ribs, preheat oven to 250-275 F. On the bottom of a large roasting tray place a wire rack. Over the rack, place a large sheet of foil paper. Lay marinated ribs ON foil, do not cover with foil. Instead 'crinkle' the foil close to the ribs leaving them open to SLOW roast. Pour any marinade left in the bag over them. Roast in this very slow oven for about 3 hours. You will find at this temperature your kitchen does not get hot, the ribs look after themselves & they are incredibly tender.
This pairing of pork, corn tortillas and guava brings me back to some of the flavors we tasted on our adventures in both Cuba and Mexico.
Pulled pork sounds like a lot of work but it simply comes down to a gentle, slow cooking process so it can be literally ‘pulled apart’ when finished. Pork shoulder is the most commonly used joint. The long cooking could dry out some cuts but shoulder is quite a fatty joint, therefore providing a natural baste. During the cooking period, most of the fat will dissolve but most importantly its this long cooking process that breaks down the tough fibrous connective tissue called collagen that tenderizes the meat making it so easy to pull apart. Although smokers are very often used, slow cookers or even traditional ovens will do the job nicely.
When the pork is finally done, it needs to rest for 10 minutes and then it should be ready for pulling apart. Use two forks to shred the meat and you’ve got it! This meal not only has great eye appeal, but the taste is wonderful!
Spiced Pulled Pork Tortillas w/ Orange Guava Sauce
Dry Rub for Pork Shoulder
Dry Rub for Pork Shoulder
Drizzle pork with 2 Tbsp of oil; sprinkle with spices & orange zest & rub into meat. Season with salt & pepper. Place in a plastic bag & refrigerate overnight (about 24 hours).
Bring meat to room temperature. Preheat oven to 275 F. Place meat in a roasting pan & bake until thickest part registers 170 F. on a meat thermometer. Basically, roast until it's falling apart. Remove roast from oven & transfer to a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes. While still warm, take 2 forks & 'pull' the meat to form shreds. Keep warm until ready to assemble tortillas.
Orange Guava Sauce
In a saucepan, saute onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil until tender. Add water (or wine), frozen orange juice concentrate, soy sauce, spices & cubed guava paste. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat slightly & continue to boil gently until mixture reduces slightly. In a cup, combine cornstarch & water & add to sauce continuing to cook about 2-3 minutes more. Taste to see if any spice adjustments are needed.
During the roasting time of the meat, prepare avocados, red onion, cilantro leaves, lime wedges. Drain canned black beans (if using) so they are ready to warm at serving time.
When everything is ready, lay out warm tortillas, top with pulled pork, avocado slices, black beans, red onion, cilantro & drizzle with warm orange guava sauce. Fold or roll tortilla & enjoy!
- If you would rather not have the corn tortillas, cook some rice to serve with pulled pork. Spoon sauce over the meat & serve it with the sliced avocados, red onion & black beans.
Due to the fact that rice flour pairs perfectly with taco-worthy fillings such as avocado, beans, cheese etc. gave me inspiration for this meal. This flour is a staple of South east Asia, Japan & India. Rice flour or rice powder is very different from rice starch, which is produced by steeping rice in a strong alkaline solution.
The technique of frying with rice flour has become universal. Rice absorbs less oil than other flours while frying, resulting in fewer calories from fat and a less oily product. Even many fast food restaurants dust their french fries with rice flour to give them that characteristic, satisfying crunch. By blending traditional wheat or cornstarch batters with rice flour will lighten the batter up and reduces some of the ‘gumminess’.
Rice flour is well suited to crepes but it is important to make them in thin, crisp rounds. If they are too thick the most likely they will crack if you are wrapping filling inside.
The recipe I’m using for my crepe stacks is pretty much a basic crepe recipe with rice flour substituted for all purpose flour. For the classic Asian rice ‘crepe’, coconut milk and turmeric are generally used.
This combination of flavors was very interesting. The recipe seems kind of long but it comes together fairly quickly. It certainly will be a ‘keeper’ for us.
Rice Flour Crepes with Black Beans & Guacamole
Rice Flour Crepes
In a pitcher, whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes while preparing the rest of the recipe.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey; stir-fry until no longer pink. Stir in water chestnuts, carrot, cilantro, garlic, apricot preserve, soy sauce, ginger & red pepper flakes. Remove from heat & set aside.
In a bowl, coarsely mash avocados, lime juice, salt, garlic, onion & cilantro with a fork. Cover & refrigerate until ready to use.
In a bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken broth (or water). In a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup of the mixture with broth until smooth. Add to mixture in bowl & stir to combine well.
Heat griddle to a medium-high temperature. Using a 1/4 measure, pour batter on griddle. With bottom of 1/4 cup measure, enlarge crepe by making circular motion in the batter. Cook each crepe for about 2 minutes until bottom is lightly browned. Lay on a plate until ready to use making sure not to let them dry out.
On each serving plate lay one crepe. Spread each with some of the guacamole, top each with some of the turkey filling, black beans, diced fresh tomato & a sprinkle of smoked Gouda cheese. Repeat with 2 more layers on each plate. End with a swirl of guacamole for some eye appeal. Serve extra beans on the side if you wish.
CELEBRATING MOTHER’S DAY!
Here in Canada, we set aside the second Sunday in May to honor our Mother’s with expressions of love and gratitude.
As I grow older, I realize how many ways I unconsciously emulate my mother. I loved everything about her and as a kid I could never imagine life without her. But in the natural sequence of events, that’s not how it works. I guess along with many other things, I’m grateful for the fact that she was there through my childhood. She passed away at the age of sixty and although she is no longer on this earth, her wonderful memory will live on in our hearts forever.
It is also with love, Brion and I celebrate his mother Dolores, for all of her kind and loving ways.
In honor of these two precious women who prepared so many wonderful meals for us years ago, I like to post something special on this day. My choice this year are these unique looking crepes.
The crepe has its roots in Malaysia and is called ‘Roti Jala’ which literally translates to ‘Net Bread or Crepe’. The intricate lacy pattern is created with a special mold or ladle that has five nozzles.
Roti Jala is eaten with a chicken curry, generally a spicy one, which is the perfect accompaniment to these coconuty pancakes. Usually homemade, this crepe is served at events such as weddings or festivals in Malaysia, Sinapore and Indonesia. It has also become a popular tea time snack and street food.
There are a few methods for preparing the batter, some use coconut milk, others with regular milk. The use of rice flour in the batter produces a very light and tender crepe.
Since neither Brion or I enjoy the taste of curry, I gave these crepes a seafood/veggie filling and served them over a Gouda sauce. I think they make such a special, lacy little crepe for brunch.
Coconut Rice Crepes with Seafood Filling
In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch & salt. In another bowl or pitcher, lightly beat eggs, add coconut milk & oil; stir to combine. Pour this over flour mixture & stir until a smooth batter is achieved. Allow to stand for at least 20 minutes or as long as two hours. ( If leaving more than 30 minutes, cover & refrigerate until 10 before using.)
Place an 8-inch non-stick skillet over high heat. When it is hot, lower heat to medium & rub a paper towel oiled with coconut oil over the cooking surface. Transfer the batter to a large squeeze bottle or a traditional Roti Jala maker. Squeeze the batter onto the hot pan, starting from the side of the pan, in sort of an up & down motion, then move to the top of the pan making a left to right motion to create that net look.
Cook for about 45 seconds or until lightly browned on the first side, then turn the crepe over & cook for another 30 seconds. Turn out onto a rack & repeat with the remaining batter, wiping the skillet with an oiled paper towel between each one.
In a small dish, combine spices. Grate cheese & set aside. In a skillet, melt butter, stir in flour & cook until bubbly but not browned. Whisk in milk, chicken broth & spices, stirring until smooth & bubbly. Stir in grated Gouda. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap & set aside.
In a skillet, heat oil & saute shrimp & scallops for a few minutes. Add zucchini, green onions, garlic, mushrooms & peppers & saute for another minute or two. Add ginger, soy sauce & water; cover & cook over low heat for several minutes until cooked. Do not overcook. Divide mixture between warm crepes, carefully roll. Ladle some Gouda sauce onto each serving plate & top with filled, rolled crepes.
Country style ribs are an under appreciated cut that is perfect anytime of year as well as usually being one of the cheapest to buy. This is a cut of pork with a little identity crisis because it isn’t an actual rib. They are really a blade chop that has been ‘butterflied’, laid open and cut through the rib. Having both light and dark meat on them, gives the different textures and flavors you taste. When sold at the supermarket, the bone side of the chop is turned up giving the appearance of a nice giant ‘rib’.
Loin chops, are the classic, beautiful pork chop we typically think of cut from the center, finely grained & even.
When I buy country style ribs, its usually in a ‘club’ pack size. Before freezing them, I cut most or all of the fat off and divide the remaining into meal size amounts. Even after that, the price is right.
If your going to make a pork stew, don’t buy what is labeled as pork stew meat. Usually this is made up of little bits and pieces from all over the animal that were left over after cutting. Use the country style ribs and just cut them into cubes. You will be much happier with the end result.
The recipe I’m using today was adapted from one my mother made using spare ribs. Its unique in the way that instead of using a brown sugar/vinegar mix to create the sweet-sour flavor, it used juice from her homemade sweet pickles.
Sweet & Sour Country Style Ribs
Remove excess fat from ribs & cut into serving size pieces. In a bowl with a lid, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, sweet pickle juice, water garlic, salt & pepper. Add meat & allow to marinate for at least an hour.
In a saucepan, lightly brown 'ribs'. Preheat oven to 250 F. (I prefer a real low temperature to ensure VERY tender ribs). In a baking dish, place meat with about a 1/4-inch of marinade. Slow roast, uncovered, for about an hour.
When meat is cooked, remove to a covered serving dish to keep warm. If you prefer, add cornstarch to remaining marinade then add to baking dish. Bring all to a boil to create a thicker sauce for you 'ribs'. Pour over meat in serving dish & serve.
Pasta shells, filled with a range of flavors and baked in a creamy sauce — what’s not to like? I think my love affair with stuffed pasta shells started somewhere in the 90’s. The versatility of this meal makes it king of the comfort food dinners served family style. Easy to prepare, makes everyone happy and are perfectly portioned for individuals and groups alike.
Another bonus, is that this meal can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. The concern with reheating pasta is always that the pasta will absorb any additional sauce or liquids as it is sitting in the fridge. In order to make this meal ahead of time, cook pasta and stuff shells but keep the sauce in a separate container. When ready to serve, microwave sauce just until its liquified, pour over pasta shells and bake until hot and bubbly.
Unbaked shells can be frozen for up to one month. To bake from the freezer, first thaw in the refrigerator, then let them stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer until bubbly.
The hickory smoked bacon in these pasta shells adds such a unique flavor to the turkey filling.
Turkey & Hickory Bacon Stuffed Pasta Shells
In a small saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour & cook until lightly browned. Slowly whisk in chicken broth. Add mustard & cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Set aside.
Pasta & Filling
Cook pasta shells in boiling, salted water with a few drops of oil added for 10-12 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, drain again. Grate Gouda cheese. In a saucepan, fry bacon to a soft crisp stage, blot on paper towel & chop.
In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, onion, garlic, Parmesan, soy sauce, basil, thyme, 1/2 of chopped bacon, salt & pepper. Add a small amount of prepared sauce (to help to hold filling together).
Preheat oven to 350 F. Using a 9-inch baking dish, spread some sauce over the bottom. Divide turkey filling between shells. Place filled shells, single file in pan. Pour remaining sauce over all & top with remaining bacon. Sprinkle smoked Gouda cheese evenly over top. Cover & bake for 30-40 minutes or until filling is cooked.
Ginger Beef appears to have its origins in a Northern Chinese dish called Geung Ngao Yuk. It is traditionally drier and less sweet than the popular restaurant version that we are familiar with here in Canada. Ginger beef epitomizes the evolution of Chinese-Western cuisine and while its status as an iconic Canadian dish may be under the radar, its the perfect springboard to jump off into the murky waters of Canadian Chinese food and its origins.
In 1975, a newly arrived family in Canada, from Hong Kong, decided to open a Chinese restaurant outside of Calgary, Alberta’s Chinatown. Two sisters, Louise Tsang and Lily Wong found an old cafe with a sign that said ‘Silver Inn’. The building was worn out but the sign was still in excellent condition. They started serving both Canadian and Chinese dishes which was the norm for many restaurant owners of Chinese decent during this period. But they found in order to suit the tastes of the North American palate, they initially had to serve a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches. With the help of Lily’s husband, George Wong (who was also the restaurants’ chef), they began to adapt certain recipes. Because George Wong had experience cooking in England, he was used to the typical Western palate. Ginger beef was born, also known on their menu as ‘No. 65 – deep fried shredded beef in chili sauce’. Ironically, the dish has very little ginger in it and its actually the sweet chilies that are mistaken for ginger.
Although ginger beef is indigenous to Alberta, I think its safe to say, it can be found on pretty much any Chinese take-out menu in Canada. You would be hard pressed though to find anything resembling it in China, I’m sure. It is neither Chinese nor Canadian and yet it is both.
Today’s blog recipe moves away from the traditional deep fried beef to a marinated version using (of all things) ginger ale. Not only is ginger ale a great meat tenderizer but you get a bold ginger flavor without grating fresh ginger. Just a little side note… the term marinade, originally came from the use of seawater to preserve meat. The roots of the word are derived from the Latin word for sea (mare). This marinade works well with pork as well as beef.
Gingered Braised Beef
In a large resealable bag, combine all marinade ingredients with ribs. Marinate, refrigerated, for at least 2-3 hours.
Preheat oven to 250 F. Line a baking dish with foil paper & place ribs in a single layer. Pour enough marinade over the ribs to come almost to the top of them but not covering the ribs. Place in oven & bake at this slow heat for about 2 hours. You end up with some real flavorful TENDER ribs & the marinade tastes so good over steamed rice.
Though called Chinese food in North America, ‘orange chicken’ is rarely found in Chinese restaurants in China. It seems its more an Americanized mutation of the sweet & sour dishes found in China.
Chef, Andy Kao is credited with inventing orange chicken in 1987. Inspired by flavors from the Hunan Province of China, he developed the dish while he was employed as Panda Express’ executive chef in Hawaii.
I, personally, have never enjoyed eating anything that is coated in a heavy batter. Tempura is different from other fried fare due to its distinctive batter. It uses no bread crumbs and less grease than other frying methods. The light batter is made of cold water (sometimes sparkling water is used to keep the batter light) and soft wheat flour. Eggs, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, oil and/or spices may also be added.
Tempura batter is traditionally mixed in small batches for only a few seconds. Leaving lumps in the mixture along with the cold batter temperature, result in a unique fluffy and crisp structure when cooked. Over mixing tempura batter will result in activation of the wheat gluten, which causes the flour mixture to become soft and dough-like when fried.
The orange chicken I’m making today uses a nice light tempura batter, is grilled instead of deep fried, then coated with a unique and quick orange sauce (from kraftcanada.com). Add some Jasmine rice and veggies — perfect!
Orange Tempura Chicken
Prepare vegetables & saute in 1/2 cup chicken broth ONLY until tender-crisp. Drain broth & reserve for sauce when vegtables are sauteed.
In a small saucepan, combine dry jelly powder & cornstarch. Add broth, dressing, garlic & gingerroot; stir until jelly powder is dissolved. Add reserved broth from vegetables & cook until sauce is thickened, stirring frequently.
Tempura Batter & Chicken
Slice chicken into strips. In a small bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda & salt. In another small bowl, whisk egg with veg oil, soy sauce & ice water. Add to dry mixture, mixing only for a few seconds. Batter should be somewhat 'lumpy'.
Heat oil on an electric griddle to a medium heat. Dip slices of chicken in tempura batter with a fork, draining off excess. Place on griddle & fry about 7 minutes or until cooked through. Drain on paper towels.
Prepare Jasmine rice & place on a serving platter. Top with sauteed vegetables & chicken. Ladle orange sauce over vegetables & chicken. If you prefer, serve rice, veg, chicken & sauce all separately so everyone can make up there own combination.
- We always like quite a bit of sauce but if you don't, just make half a recipe of the orange sauce.
Its already late August so BBQ’s and salads are in full swing. There’s just something about cooking food outdoors on the grill that we Canadians absolutely love. If your a true BBQ lover, it doesn’t matter if its a block away, you will still catch that glorious smell.
BBQ season is not only for meat eaters. Just about any vegetable as well as numerous desserts can be cooked on the grill. For me, I love seafood, fish & chicken, for Brion, I guess I would have to add a bit of pork and beef.
This meal is a nice combination of shrimp, Parmesan zucchini and pasta salad. I kept the pasta salad real simple since we already had a vegetable. To give it some extra pizzaz, I made a roasted red pepper sauce which the little orecchietti pasta cups nicely. Nothing fancy, just plain good!
Shrimp Kabobs with Orecchietti Pasta Salad
Quick Roasted Red Pepper Sauce / Pasta
Red Pepper Sauce
In a food processor, blend red roasted peppers along with 2 Tbsp of liquid from the jar. Puree the peppers until smooth, adding a Tbsp or two of water if needed to help it blend ( avoid adding too much liquid from the jar as it can be very acidic). Mince the garlic & add it to a skillet with the butter. Saute for 1-2 minutes or just until garlic has softened but not brown. Pour in the pureed peppers; add basil & pepper & stir to combine.
Allow sauce to come to a simmer; turn heat to low & simmer about 10 minutes, stirring often, until mixture thickens. Add cream, stirring until smooth. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente about 12-13 minutes. Drain & add to sauce. Serve warm or cold.
In a bowl, whisk together all shrimp marinade ingredients; add shrimp & marinate at least 30 minutes.
Prepare zucchini. In a bowl, combine Parmesan & garlic powder. Melt butter; toss zucchini slices in butter then coat with Parmesan mixture. On wooden skewers, alternate marinated shrimp with cubes of Parmesan zucchini. Roast in oven or on BBQ until shrimp is pink & cooked being careful not to overcook. Serve with orecchiette pasta salad.
- This tomato-free sauce could also be used as an alternative to a traditional pizza sauce.
This week we are celebrating Brion’s birthday. We have never felt the need to give gifts on ‘occasions’ but rather just enjoy another holiday travelling together or ‘gift’ each other at random. As we grow older, it comes clearer everyday, the special privilege it is to simply have each other to share life with. I appreciate the fact that Brion has always believed in me and supported my endeavors and I’ll be forever grateful for the love we share. This picture of Brion was taken in Havana, Cuba this year along the beautiful seawall.
THANK YOU FOR BEING THE SPECIAL PERSON YOU ARE!
BIRTHDAY WISHES, WITH LOVE
Pineapple Chicken over Wild Rice
Preheat oven to 450 F. Lightly spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
Trim chicken, rinse & pat dry; season with salt & pepper. Place the chicken in pan, not overlapping.
Drain pineapple chunks, reserving 1/2 cup of the juice. In a saucepan, whisk together juice, honey, ginger, vinegar & soy sauce. Place over medium heat & simmer, whisking often until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in the water; whisk into the pineapple/honey sauce.
Place the pineapple chunks on top of chicken; pour pineapple/honey sauce over all & sprinkle with the almonds. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until chicken registers 165 F.