Oatmeal Burrito Bowl

Oatmeal Burrito Bowl

Despite the fact that it is supposed to be Spring already, it has still been pretty chilly around here so I have been enjoying oatmeal for breakfasts most mornings. Over the last few moths I have been having oatmeal for breakfast quite often and it is always in the form of a sweet porridge and I had always wanted to try a savoury dish with oatmeal. Not too long ago TasteSpotting did a feature on oatmeal that included a few savoury oatmeals which inspired me to try an oatmeal burrito bowl.

The basic idea of a burrito bowl is a deconstructed burrito served in a bowl. I normally start a burrito bowl off with a layer of rice and then top that with beans, pico de gallo and whatever other Texmex inspired ingredients that I desire. For the oatmeal burrito bowl I simply swapped the rice out for oatmeal and I used my favourite kind of oatmeal, steel cut oats, as they have a nice chewiness and more substance.

Normally I would just spinkle a bit of cheese on top but I wanted the cheese to be melted to I placed the oatmeal on an oven proof plate, topped it with cheese and threw it under the broiler until the cheese had melted. I was not really sure what to expect from the savoury oatmeal bowl, but it I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I really liked the way that the edges of the oatmeal that were exposed to the broiler got a little crispy and the crispy oatmeal and melted cheese combination was really nice. All of the fresh and juicy ingredients on top were a great counterbalance and rounded the whole dish off perfectly. I now think I have a new favourite way of enjoying oatmeal!

Closet Cooking's Birthday: 2011


Closet Cooking is now 4 years old!

I know that I say it every year but; I cannot believe that another year has already gone by! Time has just been flying by and I have been so busy lately that I almost missed it but luckily I noticed it on the calendar just in time.

Marinated Roasted Red Pepper Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Marinated Roasted Red Pepper Grilled Cheese Sandwich

April is national grilled cheese sandwich month and I have been enjoying grilled cheese sandwiches all month long. I never seem to tire of grilled cheese sandwiches and I always enjoy playing around with new ones. This marinated roasted red pepper grilled cheese sandwiches was definitely one of favourites from this month! I started out by marinating some roasted red peppers in some balsamic vinegar, garlic, onions and herbs overnight to build up some flavour and then I threw them into a sandwich along with some fresh basil and cheese and grilled it up until the cheese melted. The first time I made this grilled cheese sandwich I went with a goat cheese which was an absolutely divine combination of sweet and tangy with the basil adding an amazing breath of freshness. While I was enjoying the sandwich I could not help but think that a fresh mozzarella version would also be good and with that thought, along with the desire to make another batch of marinated roasted red peppers to snack on, I had to try it. The marinated roasted red pepper and mozzarella grilled cheese sandwich was also fantastic with the milder flavours of the fresh mozzarella allowing for the flavours of the marinated roasted red peppers to shine through a bit more. Now I am torn, both options are so good!

Marinated Roasted Red Peppers

Marinated Roasted Red Peppers

Roasted red peppers are one of my favourite foods and every fall I roast up a large basket of them and put them in the freezer for use throughout the year. Normally I just use them as ingredients in other recipes but it is always fun to dress them up a bit and enjoy them as an appetizer. I like to marinate them in a balsamic marinade that includes olive oil, garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, and a touch of pepper. These marinated roasted red peppers are great all by themselves or on a platter with other appetizers and they also make great ingredients or condiments in other dishes like sandwiches.

Moroccan Butternut Squash and Chickpea Tagine with Quinoa

Moroccan Butternut Squash and Quinoa Tagine

While I was enjoying my ossobuco tagine , the whole wheat couscous that I served it on reminded my of quinoa and that sent mind down the path of using quinoa in a Moroccan style dish. At first I was thinking of just serving a tajine on some quinoa but why not add the quinoa directly to it so that it has more time to absorb all of the amazing flavours?

After the large holiday meals I wanted to go with something a little on the lighter side and since Spring has not blessed us with fresh local produce yet, I went with butternut squash which is still available. To that I added chickpeas which when combined with the quinoa would provide an ample amount of protein. Next up was a blend of warm spices, a touch of heat from some harissa, some sweetness from honey and raisins, some saltiness from olives and some brightness from cilantro and homemade preserved lemons .

I still felt that the meal was missing something green so I served it topped with sauteed swiss chard and a dollop of cilantro yogurt. I could not help but be reminded of a burrito bowl which led me to use try the leftovers in burrito form which along with a bit of crumbled feta was another great way to enjoy this dish.

Asparagus Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Asparagus Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich

April is National Grilled Cheese Month and I continue to celebrate with a Spring themed asparagus pesto grilled cheese sandwich which I have guest posted on Wisconsin Cheese Talk.

Pear Kimchi and Blue Cheese Salad

Pear Kimchi and Blue Cheese Salad

Now that I had my pear kimchi it was time to move on to the pear kimchi and blue cheese salad inspired by the Swish by Han . Sweet pear and tangy blue cheese is an amazing flavour combination that I never tire of and it works particularly well in the form of a pear and blue cheese salad so I was really enthusiastic about the idea of a pear kimchi and blue cheese salad! I kept the salad pretty simple, focusing on the pear kimchi and blue cheese that I added to some arugula tossed in an Asian style vinaigrette with a few garnishes. I have to say that the sweet and spicy pear kimchi and creamy and tangy blue cheese works really together in this salad and I was quickly going back for seconds!

Pear Kimchi

Pear Kimchi

I recently became aware of a Korean restaurant here in Toronto called Swish by Han that has an item on the menu that immediately caught my attention, a pear kimchi salad with blue cheese. I am a big fan of kimchi , but I had never even thought about making a kimchi with something like pears but I could just image how good a sweet and spicy pear kimchi would be. I went with a slightly modified version of my normal kimchi recipe which has an amazing combination of savoury flavours. Where the cabbage kimchi recipe calls for letting the kimchi sit out a room temperature for a few days to kick start the fermentation process I only let this pear kimchi sit for a half a day let the flavours come out and then I chilled it before serving it. The pear kimchi was a great success! Sweet pears go really well in in a spicy kimchi sauce and I could hardly resist eating it all with a spoon even before trying it in the salad as planned!

Lamb Meatballs in a Mint Tomato Sauce

Lamb Meatballs in Mint Tomato Sauce

Spring does seem to be the time for lamb and about the time that Easter rolls around is when I start thinking about it. Lamb has a stronger flavour than beef or chicken and this means that it can stand up to strong herbs like mint which I always enjoy using in savoury dishes. I had been mulling over the idea of a lamb meatball dish in a mint tomato sauce for a while and now was the time to make it. I wanted to keep the dish fairly simple so I seasoned the lamb meatballs with a few exotic Mediterranean spices including cumin, coriander and cinnamon in addition to the mint and other meatball basics. I purposely made the meatballs fairly large and I fried the meatballs in oil until golden brown on the outside and then added them to the tomato sauce to finish cooking, thereby staying nice and moist and juicy. The tomato sauce pretty simple with flavours similar to the meatballs and it is finished off with a hit of fresh mint. I garnished the meatballs with toasted almond slivers and served them on a bed of light and fluffy whole wheat couscous. Although these meatballs certainly don't need it, if you are feeling more decadent you could also garnish them with some plain yogurt and crumbled feta.

Spinach and Feta Clafoutis

Spinach and Feta Clafoutis

With Easter coming up I was looking for a new recipe for a special breakfast or brunch on the long weekend. While I was going through my bookmarks I came across this recipe for a spinach and feta clafoutis that I had saved a while ago on More Than Burnt Toast and my search for a tasty breakfast was over. A clafouti is a French dish where an egg batter, generally filled with something, is baked and up until I had come across this recipe I had never even considered the possibility of a savoury clafouti. I immediately knew that I would have to try a savoury clafouti and this one was perfect as it was filled with some of my favourite Greek flavours with the spinach and the feta. In fact the flavours reminded me of spanakopita, a Greek spinach pie which I have had no end of fun spinning into different dishes over the years.

This clafoutis is pretty easy to make which makes it perfect for brunches or light weeknight meals. You pretty much just need to saute some onions, wilt the spinach, pour over the egg batter and cheese and bake until golden brown. Despite the minimal effort require to make it, this clafoutis is one tasty dish! The spinach and feta combination along with fresh dill definitely works well in a savoury clafoutis! I now have my breakfast planned for the weekend and I already have other ideas for savoury clafoutis dancing in my head.

Ossobuco Tagine (Moroccan Style Ossobuco)

Osso Buco Tagine

With Easter quickly approaching I figured that it was about time to start testing some dishes for my Easter menu and I had several ideas. Up first was this Moroccan style osso buco inspired by this recipe for ossobuco with prunes, apricots and saffron from What's For Lunch Honey? . I always enjoy combining cooking styles and flavours from different cuisines and I knew that if you took two already amazing dishes, ossobuco and apricot lamb tagine , and combined them that you would have a winner and I just had to try it. Ossobuco is an Italian dish where a veal shank is braised in a wine broth along with vegetables and a tajine is a North African dish that is slowly braised in a tajine and it commonly includes both sweet and savoury aspects along with a warm Moroccan spice blend. For the recipe, I started out with my ossobuco recipe and then I added some dried apricots and prunes along with a blend of warm spices. Don't let the length of the ingredients in this recipe fool you, it is actually pretty easy to make and it only requires about a half an hour of hands on time with the rest of the time spent slowly braising in the oven. The ossobuco tagine turned out really well! I have to say that the sweet and savoury aspects of this dish worked fantastically and you just scan't miss that super tender, falling of the bone veal. I served the ossobuco tajine on some whole wheat couscous and garnished it with a gremolata. This ossobuco tajine would definitely be welcome on my Easter menu!

Gnocchi Poutine with Short Rib Ragu

Gnocchi Poutine with Short Rib Ragu and Gremolatta with Stringy Melted Cheese

While I was enjoying the braised short rib ragu over polenta I remembered seeing a gnocchi poutine with ox tail gravy on a restaurant menu a long time ago that I had wanted to try. Poutine in a Canadian dish from Quebec consisting of french fries topped with cheese curds and a piping hot gravy. Poutine shops across Canada experiment with poutine all the time and one thing that is often done is adding various forms of meat so a poutine with an oxtail gravy, or in this case a braised short rib ragu was not a far stretch. If you can change the topping why not swap one potato product in for another potato product, gnocchi? Luckily the three pounds of short ribs that went into the ragu made for a decent amount of leftovers and I made sure to save the last for this poutine and it was well worth it! The light and fluffy yet chewy potato gnocchi worked really well when covered in melting cheese curds and the oh so tasty braised short rib ragu. You really cannot go wrong adding a stringy melted cheese to an already great dish! I served the gnocchi poutine with short rib ragu with a gremolata topping to keep things nice and bright and fresh.

Gnocchi

Gnocchi

When I made the braised short rib ragu I served it on polenta which I don't use very often and that got me thinking about other things that you could serve a tasty ragu on. Of course pasta and rice come to mind first but then I thought about gnocchi which is another thing that I do not use too often. Gnocchi are soft potato dumplings that are made by combining flour and mashed potatoes. You can get creative with gnocchi by adding flavours or using different ingredients like sweet potatoes and I even recently tried some pumpkin gnocchi . Although the pumpkin gnocchi was really nice and I have a few more ideas for different gnocchi recipes, I figured that a plain and simple potato gnocchi would go best with my leftover ragu.

Braised Short Rib Ragu

Braised Short Rib Ragu

Although Spring is here, the weather has still been on the cooler side and I figured that I could probably get at least one more good braise in before it gets too warm to have the oven on for hours at a time. I am a huge fan of a good long braise that slowly tenderizes the meat until it literally falls off the bone and melts in your mouth and there was one more recipe that I wanted to try while it was still cool. I came across this recipe for a short rib ragu on The Parsley Thief a while ago and it immediately caught my attention. All you need to do is look at the list of ingredients to see that it is just packed with umami and flavour that could only get better the longer that it simmers.

Short ribs are a fattier cut of beef which means that we start this recipe off right away with more flavour and then we then continue to build build it by browning the short ribs on all sides. The sauce starts out with a pretty standard array of vegetables and garlic but then it jumps right into the deep end with a flavour powerhouse, anchovy paste. To make sure that we get all of the goodness from those brown bits on the bottom of the pan we deglaze it with some red wine and then we start building the complexities of the sauce with tomato paste, dried porcini mushrooms, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and an array of herbs and spices.

One of the things that I like about braising is that generally once you get it into the oven it is pretty hands off until it is done so you get a really great meal with minimal effort. Since this recipe uses short ribs there is one final step and that is to pull the bones out of the pot and shred the beef. I wanted this dish to focus on the meat so I decided to puree the sauce while I waited for the meat to cool enough to shred, though you could easily skip this step. As promised, this ragu was just packed with flavour and it was easily one of the tastiest sauces that I have had in a while. You could serve this ragu on pretty much anything that you want and since it had been a while since I last used a creamy polenta, I decided to go with that.

Goat Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper and Kalamata Olive Mac n Cheese

Roasted Red Pepper and Kalamata Olive Mac n Cheese

After far to much boxed mac n cheese in university I took a break from it until recently when I made a crab mac and cheese that I really enjoyed. I realized that there is a lot more that you can do than just your basic every day macaroni and cheese and ideas for different flavour combos have been swirling through my head ever since. One of those ideas sprang from the desire to use some of the roasted red peppers that were taking up so much space in my freezer.

Sweet roasted red peppers and tangy goat cheese are an amazing flavour combination and I was thinking that the goat cheese would work beautifully in a mac and cheese. From there I was thinking Greek flavours and some salty kalamata olives and feta cheese seemed like the natural next step. At this point I figured I was done but at the last minute I decided to bulk the mac and cheese up a bit with some artichoke hearts. I was thinking that the best way to get the goat cheese into the mac and cheese would be to melt it into a bechamel sauce which I seasoned with garlic and oregano. I also wanted to have a nice melted cheese topping so I added a handful of mozzarella cheese which is fairly mild and it melts well.

The goat cheese, roasted red pepper, kalamata olive and artichoke heart mac and cheese turned out really well! The flavour combination was simply fantastic and I quickly inhaled my bowl and was going for seconds in no time at all. I am definitely looking forward to enjoying the leftovers for lunch this week!

Spicy Pork Bulgogi and Beans Burrito

Spicy Pork Bulgogi and Beans Burrito

Since I used 2 pounds of pork to make the spicy pork bulgogi banh mi I had lots of leftovers which was perfect because I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. One of my favourite things to do with leftover bulgogi is to make burritos and since I had leftover pork bulgogi this time, I was thinking pork and beans burritos. I decided to keep things nice and simple and I added some Korean style refried beans and some spicy kimchi , Korean style salsa roja to the mix for a little bit of heat. Of course no burrito would be complete without being stuffed with ooey gooey melted cheese.

Spicy Pork Bulgogi Banh Mi

Spicy Pork Bulgogi Banh Mi

A few weeks ago when I made the porchetta I needed a 2 pound pork shoulder bu the smallest that I could get was a 4 pounder so I cut it in half and froze the extra. Since I have been trying to clear some space in the freezer lately I wanted to use it soon and as luck would have it I had just the thing in mind! I have been into banh mi sandwiches lately and while I was enjoying the last one, a Vietnamese BBQ pulled pork banh mi, I remembered thinking that it would probably work with other kinds of meat and in particular daeji bulgogi, a Korean spicy BBQ pork .

For this Vietnamese and Korean fusion sandwich, I went with some Vietnamese pickled carrots and daikon radish and some kimchi in addition to the spicy Korean BBQ pork as fillers. I wanted to go with a mayonnaise that had a hit of Korean flavour but I was torn between two; a spicy gochujang mayo and a sesame mayo, and in the end I decided to just go with both. The spicy pork bulgogi banh mi turned out really well! The sweet and spicy marinated pork went particularly well with the Vietnamese pickles and the mayo helped tame the heat of both the pork and the kimchi. I am glad that I went with both of the tasty mayonnaises and I liked that all of the pickles helped cut through their creaminess cleansing your palate so that you were ready for the next bite. I am looking forward to enjoying some more of these sandwiches!

Roasted Red Pepper and Italian Sausage Frittata

Roasted Red Pepper and Italian Sausage Frittata topped with Marinara and Mozzarella

After a week of decadent experiments with my cinnamon swirl bread for breakfasts, I was looking for something a little on the lighter side for this week. When I am thinking about healthier breakfasts I often go for eggs and as luck would have it I had been meaning to try something new with a frittata. A frittata is an egg dish that is similar to an omelette that is cooked in a pan on the stove top until the eggs have set on the bottom and then it is transfered to the oven to finish cooking and get a nice golden brown top. Like an omelette, the frittata is generally filled with something be it cheeses, meats or vegetables. Although I normally focus on the flavours of the filling I had recently come across the idea of topping the frittata with something, namely a marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese in this recipe for a red pepper and Italian sausage fritata from Our Life in Food that immediately caught my attention.

This frittata is pretty simple with most of the flavour coming from the spicy Italian sausage and the sweet roasted red peppers along with a bit of parmigiano reggiano cheese. I went with a home made marinara sauce to which I added a touch of ground fennel seeds to complement the flavours of the sausage and everything was topped off with some mozzarella cheese. My expectations for this frittata were pretty high, I mean if you take an already amazing frittata and cover it in a tasty marinara sauce and then smother it in ooey gooey melted cheese, you just have to have a winner! Even with those high expectations, I have to say that this is definitely the best frittata that I have ever had! The marinara and mozzarella topping works really well on a frittata adding a ton of flavour and keeping things nice and moist. I am certainly looking forward to breakfasts this week!

Cinnamon Swirl French Toast

Cinnamon Swirl French Toast

By the end of the week my cinnamon swirl bread was no longer as fresh as it had once been and that meant that it was time for French toast. French toast is a dish where bread is dipped in an egg mixture and then fried until golden brown. It can be a savoury dish but more commonly it is served as a sweet dish and I enjoy smothering it in maple syrup. French toast is super easy to make and it takes almost no time at all. You simply mix some eggs and milk, dip the toast in, fry it up and then top as you like. This cinnamon swirl French toast was the perfect end to an amazing cinnamon swirl bread!