What’s Cooking?

Well the Spring lobster season is over here on PEI and traps will not be set again until mid-August. The season appears to have been a good one. That and a return to a near normal tourist season has seen a high demand for our favourite crustacean here and abroad.

I love lobster but I do hate the struggle of cracking, digging, and poking it takes to get at those succulent morsels. I always seem to come out of the fray smelling of lobster and inevitably with a stain on some piece of clothing. However there are so many ways to enjoy lobster other than the traditional wrestling match. The good folk at Lobster PEI have a great series of recipes (see link below) for all manner of Nephropidae* and I thought I’d share this one for a tasty starter.

Photo credit: Lobster PEI

Lobster Bruscchetta
– serves 6 as a starter
From Lobster PEI Recipes

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 3 minutes

1 Baguette
3 tbsp Olive or Canola Oil
Salt & Black Pepper- to taste
1 (1.25 lb) PEI Lobster, cooked & meat chopped*
1 cup Tomato, seeds removed & chopped (approx. 2 medium)
1/2 Shallot, cut into rings
1 tbsp Fresh Basil, finely sliced
1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Black Pepper- to taste
Parmesan Cheese- to garnish

Preheat oven to broil (500°F).
2. Cut ends off baguette. Cut baguette into thirds and then cut each piece in half lengthwise to yield 6 pieces.
3. Place baguette pieces onto a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Season with salt & black pepper.
4. Bake baguettes for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
5. Place lobster meat, tomatoes, shallot rings, basil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar into a bowl. Season with salt & black pepper and toss gently to combine.
6. Top toasted baguettes with bruschetta mixture and garnish with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

*One (1 ¼ lb.) lobster yields approximately 140 grams or 1 cup of cooked lobster meat.
The bruscchetta mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated to allow the flavours to develop.

The word for July 5th is:
Lobster /ˈläbstər/: [noun]
A large marine crustacean with a cylindrical body, stalked eyes, and the first of its five pairs of limbs modified as pincers.
Old English lopustre, alteration of Latin locusta ‘crustacean, locust’.
*Though the family classification is now called Nephropidae it was Homaridae which would explain the French homard.

What’s Cooking

If my faithful reader follows Laurent’s blog (Larry Muffin at Home) it will be known that he has been watching his weight lately. Slowly and with great success he is returning to his pre-Covid weight if not better. He is doing it sensibly with the aid of a dietitian and I’m very proud of the progress he’s made.

Of course it has meant a bit of a change to what’s cooking here on Water Street. Portions are smaller and we are keeping an eye on certain ingredients – not to be eliminated but to be used sensibly. A few years ago we toyed with the KETO diet and I bought Kyndra D. Holley’s Craveable Keto Cookbook. To be honest I found many of the recipes too fussy and called for all manner of “health food store” provisions that would only be used maybe once or twice. However one recipe turned out to be both a winner and a favourite. Faintly Asian in name and content it is quick, easy, and extremely tasty. And any leftovers make a great lunch the next day.

Pork Egg Roll in a Bowl
– serves 4 as a main course
From Kyndra D. Holley’s Craveable Keto

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
1 medium onion,diced – about 1/2 cup
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 green onions, sliced on the bias – white and green portions separated
1 lb ground pork
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, or more to taste
1 14 oz bag of coleslaw mix
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
Add the onion, garlic, and white portion of green onions and sauté until the green onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant.
Add the ground pork, ginger, salt, pepper, and Sriracha to the pan and sauté until the pork is cooked through.
Add the coleslaw mix, soy sauce, and vinegar and sauté until the coleslaw is tender.

Garnish with green part of spring onions and sesame seeds. Additional Sriracha can be drizzled over the dish or served on the side for further seasoning if desired.

Note that this works great with ground chicken, turkey or beef and various types of slaw.

The word for June 14th is:
Diet /ˈdīət/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1.1 The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.
1.2 A special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.
2. To restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.
Middle English: from Old French diete (noun), dieter (verb), via Latin from Greek diaita ‘a way of life’

What’s Cooking

Back when we lived in Ottawa in the 1980s Saturday morning was the home/cooking/gardening show ghetto on PBS. Julia Child ruled the airwaves when it came to things culinary. However there was also Justin Wilson with his Cajun recipes and Madhur Jaffrey with her Indian and Asian dishes.

Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery was a fascinating look into Asian food beyond the Sub-Continent. An interest in Thai and Vietnamese food was just starting to take off in North America. Thai and Vietnamese restaurants were popping up and ingredients were appearing in the regular markets. I immediately ordered the book that went with the series.

Many of the recipes included ingredients that were very expensive or would have to be used up within a short time span so were impractical. However I ended up with two favourites that used things to hand or easily obtainable at the time. This Vietnamese salad or Yam has been a long time favourite. Yes I know it sounds fussy but it can all be done well in advance. It is particularly refreshing on a summer’s day for lunch.

Chicken, Shrimp*, and Fruit Salad – Yam Polamai
– serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a first course
Chalie Amatyakul – Oriental Hotel, Bangkok
From Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery

1 large, firm, sour apple such as a Granny Smith
150 g/5 oz medium to larger red or black seedless grapes
150 g/50z medium to large green seedless grapes
1 medium orange
100 g/4 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast
8 medium or 16 small uncooked, unpeeled shrimp
4 tbsp roasted peanuts lightly crushed
4 tbsp deep fried garlic slivers – available in most Asian grocery stores
4 tbsp deep fried onion/shallot slivers – available in most Asian grocery stores
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
3-4 hot green chilies
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves

Peel and core the apple then cut it into 1/4 to 1/3 inch dice and put into a bowl of salted water. Set aside.
Cut the grapes in halve lengthwise and put into a bowl. Peel the orange, separate the segments and skin as best you can. Cut the segments crosswise into 1/3 inch pieces. Lay them over the grapes with any juice and set aside covered.
Cut the chicken into long thin strips and put them into a medium frying pan. Cover them with water and a 1/2 tsp salt and simmer gently for five minutes until cooked through. Remove from the water and shred or cut into 1/4 to 1/3 inch dice.
Peel and de-vein the shrimp. Bring the chicken poaching water back to a simmer and add the shrimp. Simmer at a low heat, stirring for 2-3 minutes until just cooked through. Drain and cut into 1/4-1/3 inch dice, combine with the chicken and set aside covered.
Combine salt, sugar, and lime juice in a small bowl and set aside. Cut the chilies into fine rounds. Wash and dry the coriander. Set aside

Just before serving drain and pat the apple dry. Set some of the onion/shallot and coriander leaves aside for garnish.
Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl and taste for seasoning.
Bring to the table on individual plates garnished with the reserved onion and coriander.

Note that other fruits may be used including mango, papaya, Asian or regular pears.

*The original called for prawns which are difficult to find in North America – shrimp will do just as well.

The first few times I made these I wasn’t aware that you could get deep-fried garlic and onion slivers at Asian grocery stores; so as per the original recipe did them myself. It was an onerous task and frankly meant I didn’t make the dish all that often. Now when I make this dish my motto is: if you can buy it, why fry it?

The word for May 24th is:
Salad /ˈsaləd/: [noun]
A cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables or fruits, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients.
Late Middle English: from Old French salade, from Provençal salada, based on Latin sal ‘salt’.

What’s Cooking

I became a fan of British chef Nigel Slater back when BBC online was a free service and they featured several of his cookery shows. He was/is quirky and his shows where always slightly off the wall but his recipes are easy and appealing.

But more about Nigel later. I have decided that when I post a recipe I will not preface it with endless stories of my boyhood dreams stoked by the pages of Gourmet magazine or that first taste I had of foie gras at that cunning little bistro in the shadow of St Suplice etc. Instead here is one of the first of Nigel’s recipes that I tried and is a favourite that returns to our table every so often.

Hot Chicken Cake with lettuce and mayo – serves 4
From Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers

500 grams/1 lb minced chicken
70 grams/2 1/4 oz soft bread crumbs
6 rashers of bacon, chopped*
1 lemon – zest and juice
6 sprigs of thyme, leaves only, chopped
3 heaping tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
To Serve:
Oak Leaf or Bib lettuce leaves

Place chicken, breadcrumbs and bacon in a large mixing bowl. Grate the lemon zest in with the chicken mixture. Halve and juice the lemon adding the juice along with the thyme to the mixture. Add in the grated Parmesan and season the mixture with salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Mix thoroughly.

Shape the mixture into small patties or cakes.

Warm olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Fry the patties in the oil, do not crowd the pan, for 4-5 minutes until they are golden and crisp on all sides. Lower the heat and leave to cook through for another 6-8 minutes. It should register 170-175f on a meat thermometer.

Remove the patties from the pan and place on large, crisp lettuce leaves, add a dollop of mayonnaise and wrap the patties in the leaves like a bundle.

*Putting the bacon in the freezer for 25-30 minutes makes chopping it much easier.

I’m sure that my faithful reader knew that though I didn’t preface the recipe with ramblings that it did no mean there would be no postface.

Slater is well-known in the UK for his many cookery books, his TV series and his regular column in The Observer/Guardian. He also has a following, though not as large, here in North American. His style of cooking, at the beginning of his career at least, has been uncomplicated, comfort food recipes. However I’m finding many of his recent recipes in the Guardian assume that you have a local farmers’ market and that your pantry is well stocked with artisanal goodies. But having said that only last week his recent recipe for a chicken stew/soup was a great hit at our dinner table.

As well as his cookery books he has written an autobiography, an anecdotal book about English cooking, and a two volume ode to his kitchen garden . In Toast, the Story of a Boy’s Hunger he traces his path from the family kitchen to the Savoy hotel with wit, some naked truths and, if his step-sisters are to be believed, a fair bit of hyperbole. The title comes from his mother’s inability to cook anything but toast. Apparently a culinary contest with his detested step-mother for the affections of his father led to his career as a chef.

I am just starting to read Eating for England: The Delights & Eccentricities of the British at Table (he does love long titles) which promises to be a quirky look at the much maligned English cooking. Yes that is the word for Nigel “quirky”.

The word for May 10th is:
Postface /ˈpōs(t)fās/: [noun]
A brief explanatory comment or note at the end of a book or other piece of writing.
It was difficult to find the etymology of the word but all the online dictionaries attest to it being a word. I must admit it was new to me. Any suggestions as to date and origin would be welcomed.

What’s Cooking

I cook – that is not to say I am necessarily a good cook just that I do cook. Back in the day I would attempt elaborate meals from Gourmet and Bon Appétit which often meant buying special equipment used for one recipe never to be repeated again. Or a recipe from some exotic cookbook I had acquired, lured in by the pretty pictures, that required exotic ingredients that were only used that once and then sat in the back of a cupboard until we moved house. I’ve since simplified my cooking and learned to substitute. I’ve had a goodly share of failures, some decent meals, and the odd great success.

Don’t give up your day job!

“And what are your three biggest bugaboos where cooking is concerned?” asks my faithful reader. My three biggest bugaboos with cooking include the wielding of knives; believing and keeping to the prep time shown in a recipe; and not following the rule of setting up a mise en place before I start. I will never achieve the fine dice or chop displayed so effortless by those bloody video chefs which means my prep time will always be far (far far) longer than stated. However finally after many years of kitchen chaos I’ve finally realized what every first year culinary student knows: have everything at the ready.

Rules of Mise en place

  1. Know your recipe — necessary ingredients, cookware, and baking times (read it over three or four times and always have it handy)
  2. Prepare your ingredients — clean, chop, mince, weighed, measured… whatever is required
  3. Arrange your ingredients — appropriate size bowls, positioned logically in the order they are to be used
  4. Prepare your workstation — set the oven temperature, clean the utensils
  5. Arrange your tools — similar logic applied to cookware and necessary equipment

“So why this out of the blue post on cooking?” asks my faithful reader, who I might add has been very vocal today. “Well why not?” responds I with that quick and ready wit that is known on six continents. Everyone I know likes food and you can’t go wrong with the odd recipe now and then. So every now and then I will post a recipe that I find useful, tasty, or unusual.

I thought I’d start with something pretty basic.

No-Cook Pizza Sauce.

This homemade pizza sauce is not only quick and easy but is a lot tastier than store-bought. The recipe comes courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen.

1 can (796ml/28oz) whole peeled tomatoes, broken up with most of the juice drained but reserved.
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Process tomatoes with oil, vinegar, garlic and oregano in a food processor until smooth – about 30 seconds.
Transfer mixture to a 2 cup measuring cup and top up with reserved juice until it measures two cups.
Season with salt and pepper.

It will keep in the fridge for 3 days and frozen for 1 month.

The word for May 3rd is:
Bugaboo /ˈbəɡəˌbo͞o/: [noun]
A source of concern, worry or fear.
Mid 18th century: probably of Celtic origin and related to Welsh bwci bo ‘bogey, the Devil’, bwci ‘hobgoblin’ and Cornish bucca. Though it can possibly be traced back to Scotland as early as the 1580s where is meant “bogey man”.

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Jerry and I get around. In 2011, we moved from the USA to Spain. We now live near Málaga. Jerry y yo nos movemos. En 2011, nos mudamos de EEUU a España. Ahora vivimos cerca de Málaga.

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