Turkey Lettuce Wraps

I planted my garden quite early this year, at least compared to last year’s June 2 date. I don’t have a very large yard so I decided to take part in a community gardening initiative through Mid-Sun Community Gardeners. I have two fairly small plots planted with beans, mixed lettuce, chioggia and golden beets, purple carrots, and parsnips. I didn’t plant the parsnips this year, they are leftovers that wintered in the soil, then started to grow again in the spring. I decided to let them go as an experiment and now they are taller than I am! I bet all the other gardeners think I have a green thumb….

So far we’ve only been able to enjoy the lettuce mix and I use the term ‘enjoy’ loosely. The kids don’t like any lettuce that is spicy or has any flavour so they won’t eat the arugula. Just last weekend we got invited to a friends for a West Coast Salmon cedar plank barbeque and I decided to bring them a large bag of our homegrown lettuce. Our hosts were very happy because they had only grown romaine and wanted a change of flavour. They ended up giving us some romaine in exchange and everyone was happy.

One of the first things I did was make Turkey Lettuce Wraps using the romaine lettuce as the wrap. This meal is quick and easy to make, low in carbs and high in fibre. It’s great for a hot summer evening when you want a fast meal and don’t want to heat up the house. We also had fresh corn on the cob as a side.lettucewraps1

Turkey Lettuce Wraps

1 lb ground turkey thigh (I prefer thigh meat because it has more flavour)

olive oil

2 carrots; peeled and cut into matchsticks

1/2 onion; small diced

1 avocado; diced

1/4 cup oyster sauce

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp minced ginger

1 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp sweet chili sauce

3 finely diced bird’s eye chilies

green onions

salt and pepper

cilantro

Add olive oil to the pan and brown the ground turkey. Add the onion, carrots, bird’s eye chili, garlic, and ginger about halfway through and cook until the meat is cooked through. Add the sauces and season. Spoon into washed and dried lettuce cups and top with avocado, green onions, and cilantro.

 

Pan Seared Halibut on Lentils and Bacon

It’s always a treat when mid March arrives and with it, the West Coast halibut commercial fishing season. Though the season is long (it lasts until mid November) we do miss having this lovely white fleshed fish to poach, pan fry, or steam. I usually stick to ordering it in restaurants but lately I’ve become a bit more confident with my fish cooking skills, enough to buy some halibut fillets and cook them on my own.

This year I’ve eaten halibut maybe once per month because I am keeping a careful eye on ocean fish sustainability. Following  Sea Choice recommendations is not only kind to the critters of the sea but ensures there will be fish to enjoy for generations. Since the sustainability of halibut differs from region to region and as per type of halibut we as consumers need to be mindful of what we eat from the sea. The sustainability of West Coast Canadian halibut does have some concerns, according to Sea Choice, because they have placed it in the yellow or ‘cautionary’ zone. I think it is in everyone’s best interest to become educated on fisheries around Canada and so does Chef Ned Bell. He is currently riding his bicycle across Canada, East to West, to promote the choice of sustainable fish on tables nationwide. If you want to follow his ride you can follow him on twitter or check his schedule out to see what Chefs For Oceans events are happening during his ride.  You can also go to gustotv.com/chefsforoceans for more information, recpes, and tips for making smarter seafood choices.

So you’ve got a nice piece of halibut, now what do you do? One of the best ways to enjoy it is by pan searing it. With any sear, it is important to begin with a super hot (almost smoking) pan. Your butter should be melted before you slide fish in, presentation side first. Once it’s in the pan don’t fuss with it! Just leave it be until it is cooked about 2/3 way through. Remember you want it nice and golden because after all, you do eat with your eyes first! After the presentation side has had a good sear, carefully flip the fish over and continue cooking. Judging the done-ness of a piece of fish is more of an acquired skill than exact timing because it depends on the thickness and size of the fillet.  Unfortunately fish is expensive so you really don’t want to make too many mistakes! I used butter on this halibut and threw in some tarragon leaves as it was searing.

009This halibut is flaky and moist. Just the way it should be.

The kids have been asking for more lentils since the Canadian Lentils Recipe Revelations Challenge so I thought I would appease them with this super easy halibut ‘supporter’. Bacon and lentils are indeed a magical combination.

Lentils and Bacon

6 slices of bacon; diced

1/4 cup small diced celery

1/4 cup small diced onion

1/4 cup small diced carrots

500 g green lentils

2 bay leaves

4 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper

Sauté bacon until crisp then add celery, onions, and carrots. After about 5 minutes or so they will be translucent so it’s time to add the bay leaves and lentils. Cook for a minute or two longer, then add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn down stove to simmer and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes. Season.

 

Grilled Apricot Panna Cotta

I remember in the midst of winter, loudly vowing that if only summer were to make an appearance I would never complain about the heat again. I haven’t complained yet though I came very close recently when a friend and I picked one of the hottest days so far to go hiking in Banff National Park. It wasn’t a grueling hike or anything but it was tiring in the heat. Thank goodness that there was relief at the end of the trail in the form of one gorgeous waterfall. We sat quietly waiting to catch our breath while enjoying the slightly cool breeze coming off the moving water, silently congratulating ourselves on a job well done.

When I got home the house was stifling. Turning on the oven or even boiling something on the stove was out of the question so we had a quick, light meal grilled outside with a fresh home grown garden salad on the side. Luckily I had made these lovely little panna cottas the day before.  For some reason grilling stone fruit just elevates it to a whole new level and luckily it’s very easy to do. Start this dessert early in the morning when it is still cool as you do need to turn on the stove very briefly to make the panna cotta.  Let them set in the fridge for the rest of the day and enjoy after dinner. They are the perfect and not too sweet way to end a hot summer day.

apricots1Slice apricots in half and pit then dip in a bit of oil.
grilledapricotsPlace on a hot grill for 3-4 minutes per side.
grilledapricots1Be sure to make extra to eat for breakfast!

pannacotta2Purée then place in bottom of jar/glass, then add panna cotta mixture on top.

pannacotta4Enjoy!

 Grilled Apricot Panna Cotta (adapted from Tartelette)

Ingredients:

For the apricots:
8 apricots; halved, pitted, and brushed lightly with oil
For the panna cotta:
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
1 cup full fat buttermilk

Directions:
Prepare the apricots by grilling them over hot coals until tender (about 3-4 minutes on each side). Let cool and puree until smooth in a food processor. Divide the mixture between 6 jars or glasses.

Prepare the panna cotta:
Place the water in small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let that sit while you get the cream and honey to a simmer in a large heavy bottomed saucepan placed over medium heat.  When the cream is hot, remove from the heat and whisk in the reserved gelatin until it is completely dissolved. Add the buttermilk and whisk until well blended.
Divide the mixture on top of the apricot puree. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving to let the cream set properly.

Note: I took a poll with the family and everyone agreed that we would like our apricots on top. To do this you would need to set your panna cotta mixture first, then add the fruit.apricotbite

In My Kitchen July 2014

So far July has been quite an eventful month in our house. We started out the month with a lost dog. With the kids home from school and friends stopping by to ‘hang out’ (we don’t play anymore because we are teenagers!) our back gate got left open and our very curious Louis went for a tour of the neighbourhood that ended at Animal Services. Since it was closing time there were no photos posted online on their website and the office was closed the next day, because it was Canada Day. After an exhaustive search and twitter/facebook campaign we had some hunches that he was safely at Animal Services and went to check anyway (despite the closure) because we needed to know for sure that he was safe. He was and we were able to have a decent time at our friend’s Canada Day barbeque while he served his time. I made these fun Red Velvet Canada Day Ice Cream Sandwiches to bring along to the party. mapleleaf

The next day we picked up a very tired and hoarse Louis from Animal Services. He was very happy to be free though I’m not sure if he served enough time to learn his lesson. Sorry for the bad photo but this was him in the back seat on his way home!louis
I’ve been watching far too many Fifa World Cup matches and not spending enough time in the kitchen. I heard about Brazil’s national drink The Caipirinha via twitter and thought it would be a good idea to make myself one, you know, for research purposes! The Caipirinha is a very rustic daiquiri made with ice, brown sugar, a lime, and cachaça.   Cachaça is a rum made from the fermented juice of sugar cane (instead of molasses). If you take care to do the drink properly it can be very delicious, though it is more of a sipping drink because it is quite strong. To make one, cut up a lime into 8 smaller pieces and place in your cocktail shaker. Add 3 tbsp of brown sugar and muddle it until you think you’ve been muddling for a ridiculously long amount of time. Say about 15 minutes. You will have lots of mangled lime bits and some really nice syrup. Next, add a couple of shots of cachaça and a whole lotta ice and shake to mix it all up. Strain into a glass. You won’t appear to have a lot of drink in your glass. This is normal. I retrieved all the ice I used from the shaker and put it in my glass and then picked out all of the lime bits. Then I strained the rest into my glass again. Add more ice and sip slowly as you yell at the Fifa referees. Make sure your husband doesn’t come home to find you passed out on the sofa. Try to explain how to say Caipirinha (Kai-Pee-Reen-Ya) and Cachaça (Ka-Shah-Suh).caiparinhaNow sitting on my counter waiting patiently is this ‘Poutine Kit’. How ridiculous. What it really is, is a cheese curd kit and additional pouch of gravy mix. I was a bit disappointed to see that it was regular gravy mix and not the customary ‘St.Hubert’ sauce mix. Ask any poutine aficionado and they will tell you that you do not put gravy on poutine, only sauce. I don’t have the time or fridge space to make the curds before we leave on holiday so it will have to be a project for a later date. Of course I will still need to make the fries the old school way as they weren’t included in the package.poutineAnd a final thought for those hot July days…in the Northern Hemisphere anyway…

Cannoli Ice Cream!!!icecream2A huge thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting this fun monthly peek into kitchens around the world. If you would like to join or just drool over her amazing bread and chocolate posts head on over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

 

 

Bucatini alla Vodka

I went for a drive in the country today. I started on the highway and got up to a great cruising speed with some good driving tunes to egg me on. I drove eastward, in the direction of home (as I call the place of my birth and childhood) but knowing that I couldn’t go all the way there I settled for some rain soaked gravel roads. They were just gravelly enough to be fun and rutted enough to jostle my body to wake me up. Then I went home for breakfast and back to real life. I’m a prairie girl at heart and the prairie roads will always bring me home.

For some, any pasta is a comforting ‘home’ like dish. I know that when I ask my kids what they want for dinner 9/10 times they will request pasta. I used to buy some really great Vodka pasta sauce but then I decided that it really wasn’t that difficult to make.  The whole family was really happy with my little experiment and I think I lucked out in finding such a great recipe on the first go. I’m not a big fan of Rachel Ray and the title of this recipe is ridiculous but it is delicious and that is what counts in the end.vodka sauce

Vodka Sauce (adapted from Rachel Ray)

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1/2 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlice, finely minced

1 cup vodka

1 cup chicken stock

32 oz. crushed tomatoes (I had some passata and a smaller can of crushed tomatoes and it was fine)

salt and pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves; shredded or torn

pasta

Method

Start by sautéing your onion until it’s translucent, then add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the vodka and allow it to reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes (and/or passata) and bring to a simmer. Season. While the sauce is simmering cook your pasta according to directions. I used Bucatini which is a long pasta like spaghetti but with a hole running through the center.

Add the cream to the sauce and bring up to temperature. Drain your pasta and toss it in the sauce, along with the torn fresh basil leaves. Enjoy!vodkapastaBy the way, if you’re single and you make this for a special someone and it works out, do let me know. Rachel Ray might just be on to something!

Anju Restaurant at Test Kitchen YYC

I know what you are thinking…didn’t Dish already make us drool over Chef Roy Oh’s awesome Korean food already? What is she trying to do…annoy us?  Well short story is no. I would never try to annoy anyone on purpose (except hubby).

Long story is I just couldn’t stay away after my awesome experience at the Anju Pop up. I wanted to share this experience with Hubby and anyone else that could come along. In this case it was Hubby’s cousin Jamie and his wife Elga. True story: James and Elga moved to Calgary from Vancouver and are just getting to know our city and all it’s charms. They are great people to hang out with and Elga is a teacher. Elga is also Asian…though she is the first to point out that she is the most ‘un-Asian’ Asian there is. She doesn’t know any language other than English fluently and I once had to explain what sriracha was to her.  Yet she is always subject to assumptions when she goes out.  Like when she goes to Dim Sum the servers automatically speak Cantonese to her…or give her chopsticks while all the Caucasian people at the table get forks. That kind of thing…anyway Friday was Elga’s last day of school so she was ready to let her hair down. I knew the couple had spent some time in Korea so I was happy to extend an invitation to them.

Hubby and I arrived really early and went for a little walk to make room for as much food as possible. When we arrived we were seated right away and were ordering cocktails when our dining companions arrived. I had my first Sidecar and I don’t really remember what was in it but it tasted very similar to apple pie. I’ll be sure to order one again. Hubby had a Pimm’s cup which he really enjoyed, especially with the extra added ginger.

After all our drinks were ordered we had a good look at the menu and immediately decided to start with four shared items. The first of the four to arrive was the Tofu and Foie Gras Parfait. I loved it! It was almost like butter and melted blissfully in our mouths.

tofufoiegrasSilky smooth Tofu & Foie Gras Parfait with Blackberry Jelly and Pistachios

Next we enjoyed some really amazing Wagyu Tartare. Both the texture of the chopped flank steak and the taste were exceptional. The flavour actually brought me back to Hawaii of all places. It tasted like Poke; a fresh fish dish made with a little soy sauce, chili, and sesame oil. The addition of Korean pear on top was a nice textural element. I smeared the tiny quail egg all over the top and we happily piled it all up onto the fried wonton chips and shoved it into our mouths.tartareIf there’s pork belly on the menu I will be sure to order it. This Pork Belly was simply roasted and served with the fixings to make lettuce wraps. Butter lettuce, Thai basil, chrysanthemum leaves, gochujang, rice, and the most irresistible ssamjang sauce. Sweet and Spicy is the way we like it!porkbellywrap Soon it seemed like the food would never stop coming! I insisted that we order the Halibut Spring Rolls as it was the only remaining item left over from the pop up menu. They were just as delicious as the first time I tried them. halibutrollsAfter we successfully demolished the first four plates between the four of us we all agreed to order ‘just a couple more’. We weren’t going for the full menu but I think we did fairly well. After all, this full menu will be served when Anju re opens after Stampede. I don’t think it will take much convincing to bring Hubby down to try the rest of the dishes. One that I know he will insist on ordering is Korean Fried Chicken or KFC for short. Chicken; battered and fried, then battered and fried again. The final kick? A thorough dousing of of a whole lotta gochujang. This dish violated my ‘no messy fingers’ rule. I’m generally a dry wing person through and through but I picked up this bad boy and made good use of the stack of extra (black) napkins provided. We loved the green onion cornbread and soy maple sauce as well. Honestly we couldn’t get enough of this dish and immediately decided this was the dish of the night for our table.KFCWe had one more dish (and dessert) for the night. The Galbi Pizza which was made with Korean marinated beef, kimchi, and king oyster mushrooms on a crispy rice base. What I wasn’t expecting was the addition of more traditional pizza toppings; arugula and mozzarella. It was a tasty combination…but really filling! galbipizzaDid we have room for dessert after all of that? I was surprised when our dinner companions answered in a resounding ‘yes!’. We ordered one just to keep up with them. The Korean Pear compote was nice and comforting but I was really turned off by the extremely salty pancakes. I think it may have come down to individual preference because everyone else at the table loved them. I just have an aversion to foods with a lot of salt I guess.pancakesWe all left Test Kitchen YYC really full and very happy. I’m really glad I got the chance to try out the full menu intended for the new version of Anju. I do have a sneaking suspicion there may be a few last minute additions before opening day.

Cannoli Ice Cream

You may not have an idea how much joy it brings me to say “It’s summer!”. Or if you are Canadian, maybe you do.  Our very short but lovely Canadian summer began with the ‘official’ solstice on June 21 but even more officially with the end of school. I didn’t celebrate in any special way with the kids but there WAS Ice cream. Cannoli Ice Cream.icecream2Now that I have three teenagers in the house (until mid July) Summer takes on a whole new meaning. No more waking up at the crack of dawn to haul everyone out to the zoo or Heritage Park. In fact no more waking up to do anything at all! My daughter has already left to train for her summer job this morning (her first job!), the oldest son is a sprinkler fitter apprentice, and my youngest son is still sleeping. I’m wondering when he will wake and making it some sort of test. Generally (going from experience with the first two) they begin to sleep in longer and longer each day and extending their night hours as much as they can. Teenagers.

My kids seem all grown up and it is a bit sad. I remember when they were young and I was often tired and overwhelmed. Kind friends and family used to say, “careful, make sure you enjoy them while they are young. Before you know it they will be all grown up!”. Did anyone ever say that to you? I thought they were nuts and that I would be glad when the kids would be independent enough to do things on their own. Alas, that day HAS come far too soon. At least I can still make them ice cream and delay them growing up further, if only for a moment.

icecreamCannoli Ice Cream (adapted from Cooking Classy)

Ingredients
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 (15 oz) container mascarpone
  • 4 oz cream cheese, diced into small cubes
  • Seeds of 1 small vanilla bean
  • 3 sugar cones, all smashed up
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, roasted pistachios, chopped

Directions

In a food processor combine heavy cream, milk, sugar and corn syrup and blend mixture on low speed until sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute. Add in mascarpone, cream cheese and vanilla bean seeds and blend mixture until well pureed. ICTransfer to an airtight container and freeze 1 hour, stirring once halfway through freezing, then transfer to an ice cream maker and process according to manufactures directions. I found this mixture to be a bit much volume for my machine so I wouldn’t fill it up next time. The original recipe says to add the pistachios, chocolate chips, and sugar cone bits near the end of churning but mine didn’t mix in that way. I would add them with the cream mixture next time. Transfer to airtight container and freeze until semi-firm (I found this was best slightly soft so if you do freeze until firm allow it to rest at room temperature for a bit before enjoying).

 

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