Friday, February 26, 2010

Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Walnuts and Bacon

I saw this recipe on Chocolate & Zucchini and tweaked it just a bit to my taste. The Engineer and I just loved it! I’m really looking forward to making it again. We used pecans instead of walnuts because that’s what we had on hand, but I think this gratin could easily be made without nuts (though I’d insist on the bacon). Clotilde Dusoulier recommended using mozzarella cheese, but I used some lactose-free sharp cheddar – delicious. If you’re cooking gluten-free, use gluten-free breadcrumbs if you can find them, or omit them altogether.

1 or 2 spaghetti squashes, about 4.5 lbs
olive oil
ground chilli pepper (I used smoked Korean pepper)
salt, pepper
a few slices of smoked bacon
a handful of halved walnuts or pecans
2 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese (or cheese or your choice)
2 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 °F and lightly grease a baking sheet.

Using caution and a sharp chef’s knife, cut off a slice on both ends of the spaghetti squash, to remove the stem and the bottom. Set it upright on the cutting board and slice it vertically in two equal halves. Scrape, scoop out and discard the seeds and stringy flesh.

Rub the insides with olive oil, then sprinkle them with chilli pepper, salt and pepper.

Place both halves on the prepared baking sheet, cut-side up, and place in the oven to roast for 40 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. A knife should meet minimal resistance when you try to pierce the flesh, but the squash should not feel completely soft, or it may be overcooked and therefore bland. (In my case, it took considerably more than 40 minutes; be sure to test it with a knife.) Turn off the oven. Set the squash halves aside to cool, until you can bear to handle them (or use silicone oven mitts, like I did).

While the squash is roasting, slice the bacon into thin strips, about 5-mm wide. Place them in a small skillet and cook over medium heat until they’ve released their fat and they’re nicely browned. Scoop them out of the skillet and set them on a plate lined with a paper towel.

Lightly grease a medium baking dish, about 2 L in capacity.

When the squash is just cool enough to handle, run a fork across the flesh to separate it into strands.

Scoop out and arrange the flesh from one half of the squash to form a layer at the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle evenly with the bacon strips and walnuts.

Arrange the remaining squash flesh in a second layer and top with the grated cheese to cover the surface. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

(You can prepare the gratin ahead up to this point. Let cool completely, cover and refrigerate until ready to reheat and serve.)

Switch the oven on again to 375 °F (no need to preheat again, as it should still be quite warm). Return the dish to the oven for 5 minutes, until the squash is heated through again (if you’ve refrigerated the gratin, you’ll need to preheat the oven and it will take a little longer to reheat – say, 20 minutes). Then, switch to grill mode for a few minutes, until the cheese topping is melted and browned. Serve immediately.

(Here, I served it with Escarole Salad with Avocado and Parmesan.)

Grated Beet Salad

The Engineer recently had a job interview in Edmonton. Since I had to spend two days by myself, I decided to make a dish that I knew the Engineer wouldn’t like. You see, he’s officially decided that he doesn’t like beets (except the ones hidden in dessert), and he’s still on the fence about goat cheese. So what better time to make this grated beet salad and throw in some lactose-free goat cheese to complement it? (Seriously, follow the first link to Tea and Cookies to see the beautiful pictures! And the second one to encourage the makers of delicious lactose-free goat cheese, too.)

I went to the store to buy yellow beets and some “beet-colored” ones, but I wasn’t really paying attention and I ended up with Chioggia beets, which are really beautiful. I threw in a “beet-colored” beet I had on hand too. It was my first time using yellow beets, though, and I didn’t realize how quickly they oxidize. Maybe there would be a way to get around that by putting the dressing on the salad right away (as the original recipe suggested; I just didn’t listen), so that the acid in it could stop the oxidization. I’ll also mention that raw beets do tend to accelerate digestion, so it might be better to have this salad as a side dish so as not to overdo things. This salad might still work with cooked beets, though.

4 cups beets, grated (with a hand grater, NOT a food processor)
3 tsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 cup walnuts (optional; I didn’t use them this time, but I threw in some slivered almonds)
1 cup chopped cilantro
lactose-free goat cheese, to taste (optional, but recommended)

In a salad bowl, whisk together the mustard and vinegar until smooth. Continue mixing and slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing is smooth and has emulsified (thickened, slightly). Add salt and pepper. (Again, I tend to simplify things and shake the dressing in a little jar.)

Toss grated beets in the dressing. Add walnuts and chopped cilantro, toss again.

*Side note: with the leftover beets I had in the fridge, I tried this recipe for chocolate beet cupcakes. I roasted pretty beets and made pretty purée and mixed it in the chocolate batter. I scrambled around looking for extra molds. And the one dessert I didn’t unmold was the best – the rest were not meant to be cupcakes. I decided that, since those were full of fat and sugar anyway, I would stick to my Chocolate and Roasted Beet Pudding Cakes, which are healthier, easier to make and better-tasting – and are gluten-free as a bonus.)*

Escarole Salad with Avocado and Parmesan

I bookmarked this recipe on Orangette a while back, and luckily, I remembered that since escarole is a winter lettuce, now was the right time to pull out this recipe. Escarole is in the same family as endives, which I normally don’t like, as I find them too bitter. However, according to Wikipedia, escarole is the least bitter of the family, so the Engineer and I decided to give it a try – and we’re really glad we did. The creaminess of the avocadoes went perfectly with it, and the parmesan and the dressing tied the whole thing together beautifully. We didn’t have champagne vinegar, though, so we used apple cider vinegar.

For the salad:
1 head escarole, leaves shredded and thoroughly washed
1 firm-ripe avocado
1 hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano
crunchy sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel

For the dressing:
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp champagne vinegar (or something similar)
½ tsp fine sea salt
5 Tbsp olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar, and salt, and whisk well to combine. Add the oil a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously to emulsify. Taste, and adjust vinegar-oil balance, if necessary. (I admit I usually take the easy way out and put everything in a little glass jar with a screw-on lid, that I shake to emulsify.)

Place the escarole in a bowl or on a plate. Cut the avocado into thin slices and put them on the escarole.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave a small palmful of Parmigiano Reggiano over the escarole and avocados. Add a good splash of dressing, and toss to combine. Taste, and add dressing until the salad is dressed to your liking. Serve, with additional shavings of Parmigiano and crunchy sea salt to taste. (Here, I served it as a side to Pork Filets with Caramelized Pears.)

Filets de porc aux poires caramélisées

Encore une recette de Coup de Pouce. J’en avais beaucoup d’accumulées et j’en ai fait plein la même semaine, voilà. Et puisqu’elles sont habituellement simples et santé, je n’y vois pas d’inconvénient! Nous avons beaucoup aimé ce plat (qui donne 4 bonnes portions). Servir avec une salade verte ou des haricots vapeur.

2 filets de porc, le gras enlevé (1 ½ lb en tout)
1 c. à soupe de feuilles de thym frais
2 gousses d’ail coupées en tranches fines
1 c. à soupe d’huile d’olive
1 c. à soupe de beurre ou de margarine sans lactose
3 poires, coupées en quartiers et le cœur enlevé
sel et poivre, au goût

Préchauffer le four à 350 °F.

Avec la pointe d’un petit couteau, faire de 8 à 10 incisions dans chacun des filets de porc. Glisser quelques feuilles de thym et une tranche d’ail dans chacune des incisions. Saler et poivrer.

Dans une grande poêle allant au four, chauffer l’huile et le beurre à feu moyen. Ajouter les filets de porc et les cuire, en les retournant souvent, pendant environ 8 minutes ou jusqu’à ce qu’ils soient dorés. Ajouter les quartiers de poires et poursuivre la cuisson pendant quelques minutes (retourner souvent les poires pour qu’elles soient légèrement dorées).

Poursuivre la cuisson au four pendant environ 15 minutes ou jusqu’à ce que le porc soit encore légèrement rosé à l’intérieur. Laisser reposer la viande 5 minutes.

Couper les filets de porc en médaillons. Répartir les médaillons et les poires caramélisées dans les assiettes et arroser du jus de cuisson.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kiwi Matcha Lime Tea Cake

I hesitated a bit to post this recipe, as I feel it needs to be perfected. You see, before the Engineer and I went to San Antonio, I decided to make a quick bread to take a few slices on the plane with us for breakfast (since we were leaving very early and airlines no longer seem to serve any food). The problem was that this tea cake fell apart. It was very good, mind you, but the slices just didn’t hold together, so it was definitely not the type of food to eat on a plane. We ended up freezing most of the loaf (for an occasion when plates and forks will be alright) and ate breakfast at the airport. I’m not sure whether simply adding more flour (or less kiwi purée) to this tea cake would do the trick – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Also, it wasn’t very sweet. That’s not a bad thing, really, but I have to point out that our kiwis were not very ripe, so if yours are the same, you could add a little sugar. (Maybe the acid in the kiwi reacted with the dairy substitute and curdled it, which made the cake fall apart? I really don’t know.) The flavours did complement each other really well, though.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
2 tsp matcha powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup butter (softened) or lactose-free margarine
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup peeled mashed very ripe kiwi fruit (green, yellow or combination)
zest of one lime

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a 9 X 5 loaf pan, preferably non-stick. Whisk together flour, baking powder baking soda, matcha powder and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time to creamed mixture and thoroughly combine.

Stir in mashed kiwi fruit and lime zest.

Fold in dry ingredients, stirring until batter is completely moistened.

Spoon batter into pan and bake for one hour or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes on wire rack. Remove from pan and continue cooling on rack.

Theobroma Chocolate

I’d heard about Theobroma chocolate for a while and just tried it. I love it! I got the “plain” version (some had coffee or fruit), and it’s just perfect. 70 % cocoa, pleasantly bitter, nice smooth mouthfeel (doesn’t melt too quickly or too slowly), great to savour.

It’s both organic and fair-trade chocolate. The ingredients are vegan, though the label warns of possible cross-contamination with dairy products as well as with nuts and tree nuts.

As a side note, I recently found YouTube videos (in French) of two of my favourite teachers from my university days. My genetics teacher explains that theobroma means “food of the gods”, while my cellular biology teacher explains... something that has nothing to do with food.

Casserole de boulettes aux abricots

Voici une autre recette simple (décidément, je suis incorrigible) adaptée de Coup de Pouce. Je dirais que c’est une recette qui a du potentiel, dans le sens où elle n’est qu’aussi bonne que les boulettes de viande que vous y mettez. Pour faire vite, utilisez une bonne marque de boulettes du commerce. Mais pour faire bien, je pense que les boulettes des Zigotos seraient excellentes ici! Il suffirait de les faire cuire, puis de sauter la première étape de la recette ci-dessous. (Si vous cuisinez sans gluten, faites attention à ce qu’il y a dans vos boulettes, bien sûr.)

1 c. à soupe d’huile d’olive
1 c. à soupe de beurre ou de margarine sans lactose
32 boulettes de bœuf cuites, surgelées
1 oignon haché finement
1 boîte de tomates en dés (assaisonnées à l’italienne ou à ce que vous voulez)
1 bonne poignée d’abricots séchés, coupés en deux
sel et poivre, au goût
3 c. à soupe d’amandes tranchées, grillées si vous voulez
3 c. à soupe de coriandre fraîche, hachée grossièrement

Dans une grande casserole, chauffer l’huile et le beurre à feu moyen. Ajouter les boulettes et cuire, en brassant souvent, de 8 à 10 minutes ou jusqu’à ce qu’elles aient décongelé à l’extérieur. Réserver les boulettes dans une assiette tapissée d’essuie-tout.

Dans la casserole, ajouter l’oignon et cuire pendant environ 3 minutes ou jusqu’à ce qu’il ait ramolli. Ajouter les tomates, les abricots et les boulettes réservées. Saler et poivrer.

Porter à ébullition, réduire le feu et laisser mijoter pendant 10 minutes. Au moment de servir, garnir chaque portion des amandes et de la coriandre.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

San Antonio

We recently spent a few days in San Antonio, where the Engineer had a job interview. I tagged along to get a feel for the city. It turns out that it’s quite a nice place. We had dinner on an outdoor patio on the River Walk on Valentine ’s Day – who would have thought we could eat outdoors in February? Well, I have to admit that we were quite cold by the end of our meal, since the temperature quickly went from about 20 degrees Celsius to freezing, but still. Being Montrealers, this is not something we ever got to do before. We were also awed by local birds called grackles. They look halfway between mocking birds and crows, and make a lot of noise. That particular night, they were apparently upset by the sudden drop in temperature, so hundreds of them perched into three trees outside the restaurant and just... made noise. Listen to this video I shot.

We enjoyed visiting the city, both the Alamo and the places where people actually spend their days. We found a wonderful bakery owned by a French couple, Bistro Bakery, where we had wonderful almond croissants. We also had really great Mexican food at Salsalito (though I’m sure every local has his or her own favourite spot). We found everyone very friendly and helpful, including bus drivers (too bad so few people use public transit over there).

One thing that I loved about San Antonio was the Whole Foods (I didn’t have time to check out Central Market, but Whole Foods just made my day). Sure, it’s more expensive than many grocery stores, but the quality is better: no meat raised with antibiotics, no foods with preservatives or artificial coloring, organic foods that are local whenever possible...

And choice items, too: about all the gluten-free flours you could possibly want, all the meat and poultry you can think of, an entire aisle of bulk foods, fresh fruit and vegetable salads, wonderful fresh ready-to-go meals... Heaven!

I finally found reasonable amounts of cocoa nibs, so I bought two bags (and they were cheaper than what I found in Montreal). I’ll be talking about some of these food items later!