Sauerkraut is not something we usually buy and by usually, I mean never. I don’t think I had ever purchased sauerkraut until Monday night when I made sausages and onion sauerkraut. That night, it seems, I developed a food crush on shredded pickled cabbage. Is it any wonder that I felt the need to add sauerkraut to my grilled cheese sandwich?
For this delectable sandwich, I used regular white bread though I’m pretty sure it would taste even more amazing with pumpernickel or rye bread. For cheese I used friulano, which turned out to be a good choice because it’s not a very pungent or salty cheese. I would say that if you’re going to add sauerkraut to a sandwich, make sure the cheese you use isn’t very salty.
You know how you add pickles to burgers, sandwiches, salads, etc? That’s what sauerkraut is starting to feel like for me.
There’s a little poutine place called La Belle Patate on Davie Street in Vancouver and every time I walk past it I have to resist the urge to go in for a huge portion of their delicious fries with gravy and melted squeaky cheese. They don’t just have traditional poutine but lots of add-ons like Montreal smoked meat, bacon, and jalapeno peppers just to name a few.
Today I almost went in, the urge was strong, but instead I thought, why not make my own fancy poutine? The grocery store was only a few feet away. I picked up a bag of frozen fries (I had thought about making them from scratch but that would just take longer and I was STARVING), canned gravy, shredded mozzarella cheese (sadly the store did not have cheese curds), and a package of bacon. And once I got home Jay suggested I add some of the dried mixed mushrooms his parents gave us this weekend. These mushrooms come from places like Chile, Serbia, and Montevideo and then packaged in France and then shipped to the Costcos of North America – crazy! After cooking the bacon I sauteed half an onion and the already soaked and boiled mushrooms together in the bacon grease and once the fries and gravy were ready I put it all together and congratulated myself on my decision to make my own yummy poutine.
Fresh basil. Tomato. Buffalo mozzarella. Those are the basic ingredients for stomach pleasure. Even the sight of the three ingredients on a cutting board bring a smile to my face. I think it was while I was in Italy that I “discovered” caprese salad and also where I fell in love with fresh basil. Since then I’ve made an effort to find buffalo mozzarella (not so easy to find the good stuff but bocconcini cheese balls do the trick) and to keep a constant supply of tomatoes and fresh basil for moments when I crave some Italian simplicity.
Today is one of those days and for lunch I’ve made a super easy and quick pizza.
Ingredients for one pizza:
Thin pita bread – if you prefer to make dough then go for it but I wanted a pizza “NOW”
Tomato sauce, store-bought or homemade
Buffalo mozzarella, cut into slices
Spread the tomato sauce over the pita bread and then arrange the basil leaves on top and then the tomato and finally the cheese. Pop it in the oven for a few minutes just until the cheese melts and there you have a gorgeous and tasty lunch.
I recently found myself in amidst the lush seaside cliffs and colourful stucco houses that make up Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera. I travelled to the tiny village of Corniglia, aboard a train that sped through tunnels carved through the rocky cliffs and the first thing I did was visit the only food shop in town. All I needed was a bottle of locally grown wine, salame, cheese, and bread. After devouring the spicy sliced meat and the sharp and salty pecorino cheese I sat and stared in wonder at my empty plate. How could something so simple be so incredibly delicious? There is no answer to that question.
Pecorino cheese is a hard cheese made from sheep’s milk. It has almost the same texture as parmesan cheese but with a sharper taste to it and a more crumbly feeling. It’s fantastic with lightly or unsalted crackers or bread (in Italy most breads are unsalted) and paired with a crisp white wine.
It was also in cinque Terre that my taste buds became quick friends with insalata caprese (caprese salad). This, again, is so ridiculously simple and yet it is so full of flavour, I had to step back, close my eyes, and just savour the moment. Typically, this salad is made with buffalo mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Balsamic vinegar can be added as well and in my opinion this last ingredient completes the salad. The warm, juicy tomato and the pungent basil with the blandness of the mozzarella all combined with the sweetness of the olive oil and the tartness of the vinegar…I can’t go on – my mouth is watering as I type this!
Spicy salame, crackers, hard and soft pecorino cheese, and black olives
Wednesday was a cloudy, dark, and gloomy day. Soft, light snow fell followed by heavy, wet snow – perfect day for hot steamy dishes like soup. For lunch I wanted something simple and comforting. On top of the fridge we have a bag of alphabet pasta Jay and I purchased on a whim several months ago and at last I felt inclined to make use of it. In a small pot I put a cup of previously made chicken stock and a cup of water and while it heated on the stove I looked around in the fridge for something else to throw in besides alphabet pasta. I added two small pieces of cassava (yucca), about 2 oz each, 3 oz of skinless, boneless chicken breast, and 2 garlic cloves broken in half. I left the pot cooking on medium heat, thinking that maybe I should have added more water. 20 minutes later the cassava was cooked – it had swelled and absorbed a large amount of water so I added a little more to make it soup-y. The chicken was cooked and the garlic made everything smell like a cozy cottage during a snowstorm. This is when I added the alphabet pasta. 10 minutes later I checked back and what I found was a pot of gooey slop. It was not the soup I had looked forward to but it smelled amazing. I topped it with a bit of sour cream and paprika. Jay, who said it didn’t look very appetizing, tried a bite and then another and another. “Damn, that’s pretty good,” he said. So simple in taste and so easy to make. I will call it Alphabet Cassava Slop.
For dinner, still in the mood for soup, I brought out the Cooking Light magazine my friend gave me and I flipped over to the potato soup recipe featured on the cover. In hindsight I should have realized that potatoes would make for a very thick and heavy soup – turned out to be more like super tasty mashed potatoes. Jay said, “Potato stew.” But I think he was being nice. I’d probably make this again but next time I’ll use less flour and add more stock or milk.
Here is my version of the potato soup recipe, serves 2-3
2 baking potatoes
1/3 whole wheat flour
3 cups 2% milk
2 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
2 green onions, chopped
3 bacon slices, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400F. Bake the potatoes for an hour or until tender. Let them cool and peel then coarsely mash them. The magazine says to lightly spoon flour (all purpose flour) into a dry measuring cup and then level it with a knife but I scooped whole wheat flour with the measuring cup so maybe that affected the portion. Who knows. Place the flour in a pot and gradually add the milk and whisk until blended and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes until thick and bubbly. Now, I’m not sure but I think what I did wrong was to heat the flour and milk as I whisked, making the mixture thicker than it should have been so just keep that in mind in case you decide to try this. Next, add the potatoes, a little more than half the cheese, salt and pepper and cook until cheese melts. Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream and 3/4 of the onions. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes but don’t let it boil. Serve with cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, and green onions.
I’m a huge fan of burgers. Massive burgers that leave me with a dislocated jaw. I would probably be happy eating burgers everyday. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration but you know what I mean. Even if I were to eat burgers everyday, I would eventually get bored and I’d have to find another type of meat to fill my hamburger bun. I could use chicken but why not try fish? This idea comes from that much-used Weight Watchers cookbook I’ve been working my way through. These burgers are worth 6 points each.
Haddock Burgers, makes two
2 haddock fillets (or cod or halibut)
2 kaiser buns, preferably whole-wheat
Tomato cut into thick slices
Red onion cut into slices
Old cheddar cheese cut into slices
For tartar sauce:
2 tbsp mayo
2 or 3 mini pickles, minced
1 tsp capers, minced
Set the oven to broil. Spray olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over fish fillets and place on a baking sheet then set aside. Mix the mayo, pickles, and capers together in a small bowl. You could also puree them to get a smoother consistency for the tartar sauce. I tried using my Magic Bullet but the amount was too small and it all ended up smeared against the sides of the container. When the oven is heated place the fillets inside and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked. I am terrible at judging when something looks cooked so I tend to cook things a little bit longer than suggested.
Assemble sandwiches with the tartar sauce, lettuce, onion, tomatoes, cheese, and of course the fish fillets.
After a gruelling, yet satisfying, turbo sculpt workout I craved a big bowl of salad. Believe me, a few years ago I would not have craved a salad after a workout – I would have probably ran to the closest McDonald’s for a Quarter Pounder, fries, and a coke. I have changed my ways and if I were to eat a whole burger from McDonald’s right now I’d probably get an upset stomach.
Anyway, today’s salad started out with sautéed shrimp with garlic powder, lettuce, onions, cucumbers, celery, and feta cheese. It’s when I get to the dressing that I tend to experiment a bit. Today I mixed about a teaspoon of mustard, two dashes of Frank’s Redhot, and about a teaspoon of rice wine vinegar. It was tart and sour and spicy of course, not bad but it was missing a bit of sweetness. So, I added about a teaspoon and a half of guava jelly. Don’t ask me why I reached for the guava jelly jar, I just did. And it was lovely. Once the salad was tossed and I was ready to drizzle the dressing over it, inspiration struck. I felt daring and experimental so I grabbed the pineapple I had cut up this morning. Now, I have to add here that I absolutely do not like fruit in salads and yet I still felt inclined to add fruit. Chunks of pineapple over the salad and spicy-sweet dressing over top made a delicious and refreshing salad. The sweetness from the pineapple was a good compliment to the feta cheese and the spice from the dressing. I think I’ll be adding fruit to my salads from now on. I guess it’s an acquired taste.
Lunch was supremely good today. Sautéed mushrooms, thick slices of mozzarella cheese and a thin slice of prosciutto, grilled to perfection between Jay’s homemade bread.
I can’t express how satisfied I feel after eating a massive bowl of lettuce, assorted veggies and a handful of protein. Today I made shrimp salad again but instead of drizzling the salad with oil and balsamic vinegar I made a dressing with mayo, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and fresh ground pepper. I found that this dressing complimented the shrimp a lot better than the vinaigrette I made before.
In this lovely salad we have:
7 peeled shrimp, cooked in a bit of butter
Yellow bell pepper
Romaine lettuce, about 3 or 4 large leaves
1 1/2 tsp mayo
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Squeeze of lemon juice
Fresh ground pepper.
It’s Saturday morning, I crack open my crusted eyes and push back the wave of nausea followed by the pulsating beat of a headache. This is what happens when you stay up all night getting loaded and playing Street Fighter IV and Trash Panic on the PS3. When I finally drag myself to the living room our friend, Gabo (aka Kitchen Drunkard) who stayed the night, is already up and playing Street Fighter. Where he gets the energy to play so soon I don’t know. After saying good morning and having a nice greasy breakfast of bacon and eggs, Jay, Gabo, and me continue to play some more games.
A while later our stomachs are rumbling again. Still feeling groggy, I am not in the mood to make anything but somehow Gabo gets both Jay and I excited about making gnocchi. Thankfully we have all the necessary ingredients and after a quick look online for a recipe, we get down to work.
First, we boil 3 lbs of potatoes until they’re soft and tender. We leave the skin on the potatoes for more flavour and once they’re cooked, we peel them. We let the potatoes cool down a wee bit before mashing them and then we add one egg and two cups of flour. We have to use loads of flour for dusting because the dough is super sticky. We separate the dough into four sections and then we roll each section into a long thick strip, which we cut into about 1 and 1/2 inch-sized pieces. Each piece is shaped by rolling it over the back of a fork, allowing a tiny pocket to form on one side while impressing the fork tines on the other side. They look like larva to me. Yum.
Once the gnocchi is shaped it goes into a pot of boiling water to cook for a few minutes. You know they’re ready when they start to float up. But keep an eye on them because they may stick to the bottom.
Gabo cooks up a sauce for the gnocchi with Classico pesto, mild blue cheese and bacon. The aroma is amazing and it tastes like soft chewy potatoes in delicious pesto and cheese sauce. This recipe makes enough for plenty of leftovers which is fine by me because I cannot wait to have some more!
Gnocchi dough rolled out and ready to be cut.
Jay cutting the dough into 1 and 1/2 inch pieces (approx)
Gabo shaping the dough into gnocchi.