The other day I saw a recipe with oven roasted mushrooms and I thought, that would make a nice pesto. Instead of the standard pine nuts and basil I went with more earthy toned walnuts and parsley.
While I was at Sanko getting the ingredients for dashi I saw that they had fresh Shimeji mushrooms. I have been able to find shiitake and enoki mushrooms at local grocery stores but not shimeji. I quickly picked up a package. This was a tasty miso soup.
I have been using "Chili Powder" a lot in my exploration of Texmex cuisine, but what exactly is chili powder? If you look at the ingredients in the store bought blends you will see things like chili peppers, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, etc. Why is it that many recipes call for both chili powder and cumin if chili powder blends already contain cumin?
I decided to explore "Chili Powder" a bit more. There are a lot of different kinds of chili peppers to choose from. I decided to start with some common ones: anchos, chipotles, and guajillos. I went with equal amounts of each pepper. I decided to make a pure chili blend and add the extras (like cumin, oregano, onions and garlic) separately. It turned out pretty good. I will be tossing the store blend in favor of the home made blend. The chipotles add an amazing aroma and the powder is hotter than the store blends that I have been using. In the future I will have to try using different amounts of the chili peppers and using other types of chili peppers.
I had some gorgonzola left over from the other night and I decided to make some pasta with a gorgonzola and caramelized onion sauce. This is a Bechamel sauce with cheese and caramelized onions. It was thick an sweet.
Guacamole at its base is mashed avocados and from there you can start adding more ingredients. Lime juice is a common component of guacamole as it helps prevent the avocados from discolouring once exposed to the air. I like to keep my guacamole nice and fresh by using fresh ingredients like tomatoes, onions, jalapeno peppers, cilantro and cumin. I normally just throw my guacamole together without looking at a recipe and I include ingredients based on what I am using it for. If I am using the guacamole as a dip I would likely include everything in the recipe below. If I was using the guacamole as a side or as a filling for a tacos or a burrito I would probably omit some of the ingredients that were already present in the dish. If what I was serving the guacamole with was spicy I might omit the jalapeno pepper for example. I really like how smooth and cool and creamy guacamole is. It makes a nice foil for hot and spicy dishes. Guacamole is a really simple and versatile dish not to mention being oh so good!
When I was at the grocery store I saw something new. They were "long peppers" and they looked very tasty. I tried one raw and it was very good and really sweet. They are perfect for snacking or in a salad. I had been meaning to try roasting my own peppers for a while and this was the perfect opportunity. And so I made roasted red pepper pesto.
For some reason I always seem to have leftover tortillas which is ok because there are lots of ways to use them up. Whenever I have leftover tortillas I toss them into the freezer and although they won't be pliable enough for use as tacos shells coming out, a bit of frying breaths new life into them. One of my favorite ways to use those leftover tortillas is in huevos rancheros or ranch style eggs. Huevos rancheros consist of the lightly fried corn tortillas, the eggs and a tomato chili sauce. The eggs can be done any way that you like and I prefer either fried or poached but scrambled also works. For the tomato chili sauce you can use your favorite though I recommend warming it first as you don't want it making your eggs cold. I tend to make a ranchero salsa because it is fresh, simple and it tastes great. Common extras include refried beans and guacamole . I sometimes like to skip a few steps and go with a simple jalapeno spiced black beans and sliced avocado.
Salsa ranchera or ranch style salsa is a simple salsa that contains tomatoes, chillies and spices. It is commonly served warm which makes it perfect for huevos rancheros because no one wants the salsa that they just pulled out of the fridge to make their eggs cold. If fresh tomatoes are in season it would be better to use them but otherwise canned works as well. Though you can add your chilies in any way that you want, my favorite way is to simply add some fresh diced jalapeno peppers.
Although I really like refried beans , sometimes am looking for something a little different and sometimes I want to experience the texture of the whole beans. It is times like these that I like to simply simmer the beans along with onions and some spices. Those spices tend to always include some toasted and ground cumin seeds and then some chili heat. The chili heat often comes n the form of some toasted and ground dries chilies but sometimes I am looking for something a little bit easier and freshly diced jalapenos work really well in this case. I don't know what it is, but there is just something about warm and creamy beans that is just so addictive! I could easily eat a batch of these beans in one siting! Mashing a few of the beans so that there is a creamy 'sauce' surrounding the remaining beans is always nice as well.
The local asparagus is still coming and I am still enjoying it. This time it is a simple and tasty frittata. A frittata is an Italian style omelette that is finished under a broiler.
Lately I have had a craving for Gorgozola cheese (an Italian blue cheese). I was searching the web for interesting recipes when I came across this recipe for Gorgonzola Sauce on Gnocchi topped with Fried Mushrooms that I just had to try. On the weekend I went the St Lawrence Market and got some freshly cut Gorgonzola cheese. (It is much better fresh than wrapped in plastic and sitting on a shelf for who knows how long.) I fried the gnocchi in butter so that it had a nice crisp and golden surface and a warm and chewy center. It turned out great! This is definitely a recipe that I will make again.
Tzatziki is a Greek meze or appetizer that is made from strained yogurt, cucumber and garlic. Optional ingredients include herbs such as dill, mint and or parsley and lemon juice is also common. If you are feeling daring you can even hit it up with a splash of ouzo. In addition to being served as an appetizer it makes a great condiment especially when served in gyros or with souvlaki.
Bibimbap is a Korean dish that consists of a bowl of rice with various vegetables and optionally meat. Bibimbap literally means stirred or mixed rice and although the dish is commonly presented with the ingredients on top of the rice they are normally all mixed together before eating them. Almost anything can go on bibimbap but vegetable toppings commonly include julienned carrot, cucumber, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, bean sprouts, etc. An egg is also a common topping and it can be either fried or done as an omelette and julienned. Bibimbap is also commonly topped with meat and it is a great way to use leftover bulgogi , daeji bulgogi , ginger pork , etc. In general bibimbap is a great way to clean out the refrigerator. Of course bibimbap is also commonly topped with a chili sauce for a lot of heat.
Bibimbap made with leftover bulgogi (pictured above) all mixed up:
Buta no shougayaki or fried ginger pork in a simple and tasty Japanese dish. The pork is marinated in a sweet and salty ginger marinade and then fried. Serve the ginger pork on some rice with some miso soup and a salad and you have a tasty and filling meal. Up until recently I have not really liked ginger but now I can't seem to get enough of it and I have been having ginger pork fairly often.
Tip: Freeze the ginger and it will grate without becoming all stringy.
Lately I was craving the peanut butter cookies that my grandmother used to make when I was young. They turned out pretty good. I tried to place them all on one sheet and they spread into each other when baking... The next time I will split them onto two backing sheets.
The other day I came across a strangely interesting recipe. All of the ingredients sounded good but would it work on pasta? I just had to try it. It turned out to be quite refreshing. I will have to make it again. Maybe some dill next time...?
I picked up some chorizo sausage at the St Lawrence Market on the weekend. Along with some eggs they make a nice breakfast burrito.
My next stop in exploring texmex cuisine was the quesadilla. A quesadillas is a dish that consists of a tortillas filled with cheese and other ingredients. Once filled the quesadilla is either pan fried or baked ensuring that the cheese is nice and melted and gooey. You can put anything you want in a quesadilla though the one that I tend to see the most is filled with chicken, jalapenos and cheese. Since I had some shredded chicken left over from the chicken enchiladas in salsa verde from the night before I decided to use that. I fried the quesadilla with a touch or butter and the tortilla was crispy and nice and golden brown. I served the quesadilla with with salsa on the side.
In addition to all of the asparagus recipes this week I was also trying some texmex meals. This was my first attempt at enchiladas. It turned out pretty good even though I was a bit short on the green sauce. I look forward to experimenting with different varieties of enchiladas in the future. I could not find any tomatillos so I had to use canned green sauce.
This is simple texmex spiced chicken that can be used in many dishes such as tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, etc.
Miso and mustard sauce is a super quick and tasty way to dress up vegetables. It is sweet, salty, tangy and it has some kick. I have enjoyed miso and mustard sauce on spinach, green beans, asparagus, and brussels sprouts.
Spinach is great when tossed in a black sesame (kuro goma) seed paste. Black sesame paste is really easy to make. The sweetness and saltiness plays nicely with the black sesame flavour. This sesame paste is also good on green beans and asparagus.
This is my favorite type of miso soup. I used instant dashi rather than making it from scratch. I will have to try making the dashi from scratch in the future. Miso soup goes well in the morning for breakfast along with a bowl of nattou on rice.
Having seen this recipe for Asparagus Pesto I just had to try it and it was very good. One of the best pestos that I have made. (Note: The spinach helps keep the bright green colour.)
Spring is here and asparagus imported from Mexico and the USA has been in grocery stores for a few weeks now. On the weekend I was at the St Lawrence Market and they had the first of the local asparagus that I have seen. I picked up a lot of it!
One of the first things that I tried was cream of asparagus soup. I forgot to pick up the heavy cream that most recipes that I saw called for so I ended up replacing it with some plain yogurt. I also tried adding a bit of flavour by adding some miso. It turned out great. I will have to make it again.
I do a bit of Japanese cooking and at first I found it difficult to find Japanese groceries in Toronto. Some things that I have looked for and found include: miso, nattou, umeboshi, wakame, aburage, japanese curry roux, pocky, etc. I have found a few places where they are available. Sanko Trading at 730 Queen Street West has a nice selection of Japanese groceries and I have been able to find almost everything that I have looked for there. Little Tokyo at 199 Augusta Ave. (in Kensington Market) also has a nice selection of Japanese groceries. There are also a few shops in the St. Lawrence Market at 95 Front Street East that have a limited selection of Japanese groceries.