Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Braised Bison Short Rib Ragu on Porcini Pappardelle

I am really excited about this recipe. The method for braised beef short ribs that inspired this post, found on the Simply Recipes site here, is my winter go-to for snowy weekend meals. 9 out of 10 people  I've prepared this recipe for request an explanation of how to make it, always a good sign. We recently hosted a dinner party for ten people and I knew the rustic flavour of short ribs would be perfect, but I also knew that cooking two whole short ribs per person wouldn't be possible (budget and dutch oven capacity issues). Enter Ragu. Shredding the short ribs into a sauce and serving over buttery egg noodles allowed me to be more casual (i.e. cheap) about how many ribs were required per person. Shredding before serving also meant I could remove all the fatty and unpleasant bits - so that every single bite was moan inducing. Although this recipe is cooked over a few days, it's easy and allows you to prepare everything beforehand, thereby being the perfect recipe to entertain with. Plus I love serving guests beef, on a chicken budget. 

I haven't prepared a lot of bison in my short life, but I can say with certainty this will be the first of many adventures in cooking Manitoba's mascot. Ever since the St. Norbert's Farmers Market announced their online store I've been eyeing the various bison cuts offered by Storsley Bison Ranch (of Beausejour). Their bison is grass fed and raised with no antibiotics or growth hormones. Compared to beef, bison is low in fat, calories and cholesterol and is a good source of iron. When you're not a huge meat eater, like me, this means consuming bison pays nice dividends. Also, consider that it is truly a Manitoba food - more so than any other immigrant or settler food we often think of as defining Prairie cuisine. What food could be more prairie than an animal that has lived here well before confederation, was a staple of indigenous cuisine, that itself subsists on the very grasses that define what a prairie is? I could go on... but I'll spare you.

Perhaps the very best part about cooking bison this past weekend was that it gave us the excuse to invite our friends Delaney and Bhavesh over for dinner. Bhav doesn't eat beef, so I knew he would appreciate coming over for a classic red meat meal, without a hint of beef in the ingredients. Delaney will eat anything. When usually I would've used beef stock to braise, to keep it beef-less, I used a combination of chicken and vegetable broth, and the recipe didn't suffer in the least. If you don't want to go to the trouble of finding bison, you could absolutely use this recipe to cook beef short ribs (I prefer the ones that Sobeys sells). 

One last local plug: the Nature's Farm pasta I crowned with the bison was a key player in this recipe. I've been coveting their Porcini Pappardelle for a few months now, and was so thankful to find it available on the online farmers market. Using good pasta makes all the difference in this dish, and nothing beats Nature's Farm pasta made with their amazing fresh, free run eggs. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Soft Boiled Egg with Soldiers

I realize this post is in no way a "recipe". And you probably don't need a how-to guide for boiling water and buttering toast. I post it only in hope of inspiring you to try this old method again, as it is one of my most favourite morning pleasures. I post the step by step pictures and directions not to patronize you or question your basic living skills, but because the ritual is so dear to my heart. Because it takes only 10 mins start to finish, it's great for upping the ante on week day breakfasts.

The top three reasons I love Winnipeg: Family, Friends, and Rye Bread. How can anyone pick sides if asked to choose between the chewy, cracked rye bread that City Bread and KUB Bakery produce here in the city. Mornings can never be bad when started with a healthy pat of butter melting on a well toasted slice of rye. Butter used to be my guilty pleasure, until I started rationally thinking about it, now it's just a pleasure. 

Again, my Point counting voice will chime in at times with the "just have the toast dry - butter is so unhealthy." I've learned to stop listening. Counting calories is something I try not to do anymore, but for all those worried about the occasional buttered piece of toast or egg yolk, this breakfast of: one egg, two slices of rye, 2 teaspoons of butter, and half a grapefruit is approximately 360 calories. A Tim Horton "Egg" White and Turkey Sausage Sandwich is 330 calories. For a negligible 30 extra calories I would much prefer sitting around the breakfast table enjoying some real food, the ingredients of which I can pronounce. Admittedly, I fall prey to those horrible convenience foods too often, but by putting these thoughts in writing I hope to forget them less. Sorry - rant over.

I already spoke to my new found love of eggs here, but one of my favourite parts of being a new egg lover is the excuse to collect all kinds of egg eating paraphernalia (much to Dave's enjoyment as you can well imagine). Finding the perfect egg cups is a fun outing in itself. The antique mall at The Old House Revival Company has many great finds. If you don't have cute egg cups - I made do with shot glasses for the first years of making soft boiled eggs. The only soft boiled egg tool I'm still on the hunt for is an ornate silver spoon. Once I find the perfect one, my Sunday morning breakfast table ritual of making believe I'm Mary from Downton Abby will be that much more realistic. 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Beet Risotto with Seared Scallops

Is there anything better then tender scallops atop creamy risotto? To cap off the most fantastic thirtieth birthday, I made dinner for Dave and I after a day spent at the new Thermea spa here in Winnipeg. I figured after being in a robe, bare faced with naturally dried hair (fro) - getting dolled up for a dinner would seem more like a chore then a celebration. Scallops and risotto seemed like an appropriate choice for such an occasion.

If you've been over to our place for dinner, you've likely had my mushroom risotto, which is largely based on this recipe from allrecipes.com. I first decided to make this beet version this summer for my potluck girls when my horticulturally inclined friend Naomi gave me some beets from her garden. I like the contrast of combining a sophisticated dish like risotto with a subterranean vegetable like the beet - very prairie. I figured a few weeks before Valentine's Day this would be a great recipe to share with you - given the neon pink colour. Red meat is generally my go to for a Valentine's Dinner, but scallops are the way to go - they are a decadent splurge that won't leave you feeling too full for whatever the rest of the night entails for you.

With the goal being to make the brightest risotto possible, I used the broth needed for the risotto to boil the beets in so that not a drop of the pigment went to waste. I usually roast my beets for the intensity of flavour, but for this one, boiling is quick, easy and leads to ruby red rice. I recommend cooking the scallops after you've finished preparing the risotto. They only take a few minutes to cook and they will need your undivided attention. I used the frozen scallops from Costco. Be sure to take them out to thaw in the fridge 24 hours before you need them. I let them thaw covered in paper towel with a weighted plate on top to ensure that all the liquid is squished out and absorbed - otherwise when you go to cook them the may "weep" and then not brown. Take them out of the fridge to come to room temperature before cooking. 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Kale Caesar Salad

My family loves us some authentic Caesar Salad. This dressing recipe is one my mom has been making since I can remember... you can see from the original below that it has been well used.

I believe Rod is my Mom's ex-boyfriend's Brother..... thank you Rod, wherever you are. I've modified the recipe a touch. I find using half vegetable oil and half olive oil is better than all olive oil, as the flavour can be a little over powering if you use all olive oil. I also don't like buying a tin of anchovies because I never use the whole thing in one go and don't want them sitting in my fridge. Trying to find Anchovy Paste at Superstore, like Tahini, is a nightmare - it's in the refrigerated section alongside the kraft parmesean, feta cheese and pickled eggs - super weird, I know. If you think anchovies and raw egg are gross - I do too, but the dressing tastes so authentic and wonderful, you'll have no recollection that you added those two fear factor ingredients when you're eating it.

If any of you are like me and grew up in 90's and 00's knowing the Weight Watchers points value to every food item - the thought of using this "high fat" dressing may cause you to think "10 points for a salad - then I'd have to cut out breakfast - not for a salad you crazy woman" (Disclaimer: I didn't actually calculate the points value). Chill out - the way I look at it: Vegetables suck, if by dressing them in butter or a delicious dressing they will taste wonderful and you will get all the nutritional benefits, its worth it. Also, consider the fact that the recipe makes a ton of servings and really it's a few tablespoons of healthy fat per serving - get over it. 

One last thing - this dressing could obviously be used on romaine lettuce. Try it on Kale though. It's a fairly intense dressing that needs a heavy lettuce to be able to stand up to it, thereby making Kale a perfect compliment. I've fed it to a few "kale haters" and they've gobbled it down, asking for seconds (i'm looking at you Caners and Glen).

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Poached Egg on Broiled Mushroom and Ricotta

Ah yes, Saturday mornings. I found some Manitoba "portobello" mushrooms at Vic's Fruit Market. Having some leftover ricotta cheese and pea shoots, I thought a little poached egg on top would make a delicious, easy breakfast. And then, just to up the fancy factor, which you know I'm always inclined to do, truffle oil and truffle salt were a must.

I grew up hating eggs, but in the last few years have done a complete 180 and now revel in the glory that is a runny yolk. I think the key to enjoying eggs is to start buying good, free range eggs. I love the Manitoba Free Run Vita Eggs - the yolk colour is unbeatable.

Normally you would use one large portobello, but mine were tiny (not convinced they're actually portobellos but I do love trying mystery mushrooms). You could use an alternate cheese (probably chèvre) but I wanted to use up the leftover ricotta. And of course any greens would work as the base - arugula would be my top choice. 

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Warm Quinoa and Roasted Cauliflower with Balsamic-Tahini Dressing

It's back to work and school. Dave just started back into his Masters classes, every Thursday night he's not home ... which means I feel not an ounce of guilt when I make a meatless dinner. 

Another recipe with tahini in it. I don't know what it is, but there is something so addicting about the flavour. I love the concept of mixing quinoa with any roasted veggie, tossing it in a dressing and adding cheese and other yummy toppings. It is pretty healthy for being so comforting. This recipe can basically be a choose your own adventure - I often roast sweet potato and mushrooms along with the cauliflower. And then instead of the feta and pea shoots you could do anything (goat cheese, walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds etc). To me, it's more then satisfying as a meal, but you could add a chicken breast to the top or maybe some chickpeas if you insist.