Seared Tuna Sashimi

How is it that a Blog post can be written and then not posted, for months?  OK, I forgot to write down the recipe.  So I cooked it again.  Except that half way through, I forgot again; something about measurements –  does it really matter?  And then I forgot to take a picture.  And then I got the picture and it still didn’t get posted. It’s like the not-posting developed inertia and no external force came along to change it;  the non-doing was perpetuated by further non-doing and then non-doing became an act unto itself.  And how to reverse that?  Clearly two non-doings do not turn into doing.  But without further non-doing, the post, at long last:

 

My friend Wendy is one of those amazing cooks who never acknowledges that she is an amazing cook. She happens to be amazing at a lot of things and she also happens to be a better skier than me, but that’s for another blog. Let’s just say Wendy is amazing and she has the ability to throw together huge meals for huge groups of people without any assistance from packaged goods. “I’m all about simple, Lindsay” she insists. Simple? Nothing about the meal would be simple except the ease with which she throws it all together. Simple, perhaps because she made some of it ahead of time, or perhaps because she was able to get the ingredients locally. I don’t know, but I do know that the results are always simply outstanding, wherever we are, no matter what the occasion or how big the crowd. And so it came to be one day when she visited me in Toronto, it was just the two of us for dinner and we bought a beautiful overpriced piece of tuna (why I was feeding fish to someone who had flown in from Vancouver, I do not know; clearly I have become a smug Torontonian after all).  I planned to cook it the special way I had finessed over the years, but Wendy insisted that since I was putting her up, she would cook it and I was to let her do it “her” way. I had to acquiesce. (I am learning, very slowly, to let some things go, sometimes). I figured, when it came right down to it, how many ways can you sear a piece of tuna? Well, clearly more than one; it was outstanding! The combination of the flavours of ginger and sesame oil with the sesame seed crust blew me away. As we savoured and devoured our meal we discussed the minutiae of our various recipes and decided that a combination would be spectacular.

I have since infused Wendy’s version  with a sprinkling of mine, such that I think we have the absolute best of both combined.  There is such joy in cooking with friends,  sharing recipes, improvising and riffing off each other and creating something new that would likely never have been discovered alone in the kitchen.

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about to pour on the wasabi lemon dressing

 

Ingredients:

This makes enough for a meal for two, or an appetizer for four

For the tuna:
-ginger, a piece about the size of a thumb, finely grated
-soy sauce, a few Tablespoons
-sesame oil, a few drops; not too much as it can be overpowering
-black sesame seeds
-sashimi grade tuna steak
-arugula

Dressing:
-wasabi, about a teaspoon, or to taste
-juice from half a lemon
-a splash of soy sauce

Special Equipment

-a heavy based frying pan, preferably cast iron, or non-stick

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Directions:

Combine ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil in a dish just large enough to hold the tuna. Place tuna in the dish, turning to ensure all sides have been submersed in the marinade and leave to marinate for 20-30 minutes, turning several times and spooning mixture over top.

In the meantime, whisk together the lemon juice, wasabi and another dash of soy sauce.  Adjust amounts to taste.

On a side plate, poor enough black sesame seeds to cover the bottom.

Get the frying pan nice and hot, but not too hot because you don’t want to burn the sesame seeds, so, medium high-ish.  Remove the tuna from the marinade and coat it in the sesame seeds and when the pan is ready, throw the tuna in.  How long you cook it for is really a matter of taste.  You can sear it for thirty seconds a side for virtually a sashimi tuna, or a minute per side for a little more cooked.  You definitely want it rare! To monitor it, you can watch the sides as the grey creeps up. Once done, remove from pan and place on chopping board.  Thinly slice the tuna and arrange pieces on individual plates over a handful of arugula. Drizzle with wasabi lemon dressing and serve.

 

 

Blossom Season; Vietnemese Pork and Lettuce Wraps

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It’s blossom season. Also known as spring, when a gazillion little petals explode into pinks and whites, the fusillade juxtaposing the greens that have suddenly blanketed the land like a scene out of a Dr. Seuss movie. It’s a fleeting moment, the fruit trees bursting to life one sunny afternoon, redefining the word breathtaking, and then equally, their grandeur stripped in a single spring rainstorm. Having barely survived a senses-deprived winter, we crave that wonderment, that freshness; what new blooms today, we wonder? This week the lilacs came back, momentarily making the world a better place as their lingering scent drugged even the stodgiest passerby into a moment of pause. It breaks us from the mundane, blossom season does, and catapults us into sensory euphoria; the colours, the scents, the sounds; yes the bees are suddenly there too! And taste? The bounty is just beginning. I managed to forage for fiddleheads this past weekend, and, well, that’s a game changer. Winter foods be gone! Here is a dinner that has such fresh bursts of flavour it screams Winter Is Over. It is blossom season’s take on the heavier household favourite of tacos, only, we dispense with the tacos and use lettuce leaves, substitute the lighter ground pork for the ground beef, add fish sauce, freshly squeezed lime juice and top with a ton of fresh herbs. I served it on the first day the patio furniture was stripped of its winter weary coverings and the People went nuts. Thank you Blossoms for your never ending excitement and inspiration!

The measurements are not precise because it doesn’t matter; just like tacos or any other self assembled dish, it comes down to what you like.  More herbs?  More veggies?  Go for it!

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium carrots, julienned (can buy already shredded!)
  • 1/2 medium onion, cut into thin slices
  • Filling:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine; if you don’t have any, substitute a little white wine mixed with a tiny bit of sugar) (you can always add more after if you would like it to be a little sweeter)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • juice from a lime
  • Toppings:
  • 8 Bibb lettuce leaves (any leaf lettuce will do; this just has a gentle taste)
  • 1/2 English cucumber, finely chopped
  • 1 small sweet red pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup or more  each coarsely chopped fresh basil, cilantro and mint (I use more!)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped (optional)
  • Lime wedges

Directions

  • In a small bowl, mix vinegar, sugar and salt until blended. Stir in carrots and onion; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  • In a large pan, cook pork, ginger and garlic over medium heat until pork is no longer pink  (about 6-8 minutes). Break pork up into crumbles, drain and return to same pan. Stir in soy sauce, mirin, salt, pepper and fish sauce. Add juice from a lime to taste.
  • To serve, drain carrot mixture and place all the ingredients in separate bowls on the table.  Place a scoop of pork mixture in a lettuce leaf, top with cucumber, red pepper, green onions, carrot mixture and herbs, sprinkle with jalapeno (and peanuts if you wish), squeeze a little lime juice over top, fold lettuce over and chow down.  Yield: 8 servings.

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Tomato Salad with Chorizo; a Lunchtime Meal

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Alas and Alack? No! What’s For Dinner Maddie is Back.  Apologies for the long simmer, the back burner, the stewing.  Oh the stories to follow, but for now, we pick up where we left off.  Something about cooking? Ah yes…

Sometimes we cook for the love of cooking, sometimes we cook just for love, and sometimes we cook for both.  Cooking is an expression of love, whether it’s gourmet or grilled cheese. For love we can cook an entire meal solo for a crowd, or we can cook en masse, collaborating and dancing around each other like a grand ballroom waltz.  I watched such a dance of love in my sister’s kitchen in Uganda recently as some of her birthday dinner guests arrived 6 hours early; yes, 6 hours early.  Something about the growing waves on Lake Victoria that necessitated an early crossing.  And so, we were now serving lunch as well as dinner, which, in an area as remote as my sister’s home, you’d think would be stressful.  Not for my sister and her husband, who cook both for love and for the love of cooking and have a pantry brilliantly stocked for three bountiful months.  Their kitchen is a massive open space with a huge slab of olive wood for a counter, the tree from which was found and dragged into the workshop by them.  There is no fancy name brand range with signature red knobs; just a couple of burners with propane tanks barely concealed beneath.  It’s about the cooking, the space, and how they move about it together. And their wonderful guests knew intuitively how to fall into step within that space. There is an intimacy to working in a kitchen together and, like all intimate acts, it works with some people and not so much with others. On this day, I was voyeur, not cook; a wonderful privilege as I  listened to their laughter, felt their rhythms, and breathed in the aromas as they began to burst from the pans.  I watched the beautiful Sarah sashay in behind my sister, fluidly relieving her of the massive knife and assume the onion chopping without missing a beat.  It was like a salsa dance, each knowing what to do and whose lead to follow.  I watched the bulge of the muscle in Jean-Jaques’ forearm as he cut the bread in a way I’m certain only a French man could do. And I watched my sister and her husband do-si-do about the kitchen like actors in a musical film you just want to be in so badly.

And the fruits of their labours of love? Divine! Make it for lunch as a stand alone meal, or as a starter for dinner.  The only urging I have is to use the best chorizo you can find as the flavour is powerful amidst the delicate tomatoes so it must be good!

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Ingredients:

-Chunkily chopped tomatoes (at least 1 per person for a starter, 2 if for a meal)
-Slices of chorizo, about 1/2 cup per 2 tomatoes
-Onion cut into thin wedges/slices (best to use a milder onion, like purple, vidalia or white as opposed to yellow cooking onions that are strong in taste and could overpower the tomatoes). About a half a large onion for 4 people, or a whole, depending on your tastes.
-Thinly sliced garlic, 2 cloves, or more to taste
-Something green and crispy like celery or fennel, thinly sliced (I prefer fennel), about 1 bulb for 4 people
-Fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn (a handful or two)
-Fresh italian parsley (a handful or two)
-Olive oil
-Vinegar
-Salt and Pepper
In a bowl toss the tomatoes, parsley and basil.  Season with salt and pepper
In a pan, soften the onions and fennel and then add the slices of chorizo.  Allow the onions to go slightly golden at the edges and the chorizo to crisp a little.
Add the sliced garlic and cook for a bit more until the garlic is cooked slightly.
Pour the hot oil, chorizo, onions, fennel and garlic over the tomatoes and toss gently.
Drizzle a little vinegar (white or  red wine,  but not balsamic). Season and serve with chunks of crusty bread.

African Life and Meatballs

What is the meaning of life? Let’s solve this on a cooking blog, shall we? Perhaps the meaning of life can be found by pushing our creative boundaries and telling our rational mind that it can’t always be the boss of us. Both in life and in cooking, recipes can be prescriptive and we can choose to follow them to the letter or we can opt to let our senses guide us.  A stay at my sister’s lodge, Clouds, on the edge of the Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest in Uganda, has injected a life altering octane into all five of my senses.  Her place is absolutely outstanding. Travel can do that, stimulate to the point where we are feeling more than we are thinking; we see and hear, touch, taste and smell our surroundings with a childlike wonderment that allows the newness of everything to burst past our mid-life veil and fill us with experience. My sister and I adventured into the jungle, plunging ourselves into waterfalls along the way to stay cool as we trekked down the valley into Buhoma. Weary at the end of the day, I snuck a peek through my binoculars into the forest in the failed hopes of spotting a mountain gorilla. Instead, my search revealed a tree glistening in the sunshine with such clarity I thought I was looking at life through new lenses. Hmm, I guess I was; Bushnell. But it was exciting, seeing this tree with such focus, watching the intricacies of its movements with crystal clarity. On our return trek back up from the valley, calves aching from the previous day’s hike down, we passed through ferns so large we felt like we’d been shrunk and put in a movie with Rick Moranis. Another few steps and an explosion of butterflies all around us, thousands of them; I swear a symphony was hiding behind one of the giant ferns as it burst into the Butterfly Overture. Even my sister, who has lived here 18 years, marveled every step of the way. We paused for lunch on a bridge made of sticks and twigs lashed together and we delved into the most delicious meatballs I have ever had. I savoured each bite, aware that even though my senses were heightened, this was not just mindful eating; these meatballs were good. And they were cold (well, maybe a bit warm, since we were on the equator). So go ahead, make them, get lost in the aromas of the fresh herbs, the rhythm of your chopping knife and the gentle subtleties of shaping each ball. Enjoy them hot, perhaps with a tomato sauce, and also cold! This recipe is my sister’s, tried and true, and absolutely delicious. The meatballs we actually ate included some minced red and green pepper, which was a wonderful fresh addition if the meatballs are eaten on their own with no sauce. The photo does not do them justice, but take some creative license, experiment and the taste will undoubtedly astound, despite their appearance!
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Meatball Ingredients

makes enough for 4 with enough meatballs leftover for another meal

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb gound pork
(can also add 1/2 lb ground veal, but add a few extra herbs so the flavour is not diluted by the extra meat)
1 egg
½ cup breadcrumbs, soaked in a bit of milk (1/4 cup), if you like but not necessary
3 Tbs freshly and finely grated parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbs or more fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp salt

optional:

1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper

Add these especially if you plan to either picnic on the meatballs or eat them without the tomato sauce as it adds not only another layer of flavour but also a bit of veg to the meat.  I like add the peppers to half the meatballs and put some aside for another day, while the rest go into the tomato sauce.

Tomato Sauce

this recipe is only enough for about 4 people; use another can of tomatoes for more

2 Tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
2 tsp dried herbs; could be one of or a mixture of oregano, thyme, basil, herbs de Provence or Italian herbs

Cooking meatballs

Preheat oven to 325°F Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and then using your hands, shape into balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, about 30 minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs. Be careful not to overcook as they will taste dry.

Cooking Tomato Sauce

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan and add the garlic and stir.  After a minute or so, add the herbs and stir again. Once the garlic begins to cook, add the tinned tomatoes and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste and gently mash the tomatoes with a potato masher until there are no lumps. Simmer for another few minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.

Add the meatballs (or some of them) to the sauce until warmed through and serve over pasta. Any pasta will do but for meatballs, I tend to lean toward a broad egg noodle as opposed to a spaghetti that I would use for a bolognese sauce or a fusilli for a plain tomato sauce.

Be liberal with the herbs and let your senses guide you as you totter about like the Swedish chef throwing ingredients hither and tither, then, revel in the fruits of your labour!

 

Coming soon to What’s For Dinner Maddie:

Sister’s Chorizo and Tomato Salad
Ungracious Crepes

Prepared Foods Allowed

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could subscribe to Timothy Leary’s famous line, “Tune in, Turn on, Drop out.” It would go something like this: “Sorry kids, Mommy doesn’t work here anymore” and then that’s that, we just drop out. No more cooking; how’s that for a turn-on! I remember my mother once going on strike; something about my Dad not fixing something in the kitchen. My mother was someone who was prone to outbursts and rage but in this instance she remained completely calm and held her ground all the while repeating her new byline “No fixy no cooky”.  I think the standoff lasted several days, ending in plaster dust and the cacophony of electric drills, but our apartment had remained remarkably calm as we survived on cinnamon toast and peanut butter sandwiches. Only now as an adult can I appreciate my mother’s sense of tranquility at not having the pressures of cooking nightly for a family of five. I can still see her sitting quietly in the white living room peacefully reading at what would normally be the frenetic dinner hour, a slight smile that could almost be mistaken for smugness. Anyway, we survived, my sisters and I, and we even had reprieve from polite dinner conversation and the obligatory rounds of praise.

I tried the same thing in my house not too long ago, for different reasons, probably something along the lines of feeling underappreciated and underpraised. But my strike was met with far less success. In this age of prepared food, fast food, take-out and delivery, the other adult in the house was able to cope all too marvelously and the kids thought they’d hit the jackpot with pizza one night, butter chicken another, and little mini chicken pot pies that they got to eat right out of the tin.  The People didn’t suffer; just the striking CEO, whose ego and pocketbook took a hit. So, note to self, take a day off from time to time and order pizza, Thai, Indian or whatever your fancy. Allow the odd box of frozen meatballs to enter the house, or my favourite, a tourtiere; pick up a shepherd’s pie or lasagna already prepared and serve with a green salad. A break from cooking also is a break from dishes, and What’s For Dinner Maddie sanctions a good break from time to time. Also, They may just appreciate you more.

And on the theme of a break, What’s For Dinner Maddie will next be posting on some culinary delights in Africa. Stay tuned.

Pork Ribs – a teenage crowd pleaser

It’s report card season again.  No matter how many years pass me by and how many I read, they never cease to throw me back to my own report card days – my chest tightens at the mere thought. Without fail, in every report card I ever received, there was that line: “Lindsay is inclined to procrastinate.”  I mean does anyone even use that word anymore?   Year after year I was reminded of who I was and procrastination has become this sticky web from which, try as I may, I simply cannot escape.  I am now the parent who sends the field trip form into the school the morning of the trip; I’m the parent who leaves the house with three minutes to spare before a five minute drive to pick someone up, forgetting that there is a foot of snow on the car that needs to be removed; I’m the one who backdates cheques before I mail them in, just to look like I did it earlier.  And I’m that mother who remembers at 4:30 in the afternoon that I have to cook dinner tonight as though it’s never been part of my routine. My name is Lindsay and I am a procrastinator.

As part of my healing process from years of suffering procrastination, I am slowly learning to identify my triggers and develop some tools for managing my problem. I will share.

One thing I have learned is that when a child’s voice says “I’m hungry”, that is not code for “Have another glass of wine Mommy”, or, “Please stay on your computer for another hour and continue to ignore me while I do my dance routine in front of you for the 60th time today”.  No, it’s code for “Why the Hell isn’t my dinner ready and why didn’t I smell the aromas wafting down the block as I leisurely ambled home from school without a care in the world, knowing I am well loved and provided for?”

So now the tools. Right.  Every now and then I actually do think ahead, and I get something out of the freezer, which is a double think ahead because I saw it at the grocery store on super sale and thought ahead to buy it and put in it the freezer.  Here are some examples: shrimp, pork tenderloin, racks of lamb, pork ribs; these items are often on sale and can save a bundle of money and time and are often vacuum packed and freezer ready.  Today we are looking at ribs.  It happens all too often in our house that son #1, who goes away to school, texts me and announces he is coming home.  And can he bring Friend, Friend, Friend and Friend for the weekend.  And the next day, two more friends are also coming over because they are pre-ing here before the party.  (Yes, that is a verb, following on the heels of that other fairly new verb parenting, but perhaps more akin to the much more recent verb, après-ing, though with the opposite meaning).  And so out come the racks of baby back ribs, or side ribs or whatever ribs.  I think back ribs are tastier and easier, but side ribs are cheaper and more often on sale.  Anyway, hopefully you know a few hours ahead that a gang is coming so you can slow cook the ribs  until they are fall off the bone tender. Basically, you will cook them at low heat with some spices and then finish them off with a BBQ sauce.

slow cook ingredients

These amounts are very flexible, and based on one rack of ribs, so double or triple at leisure. You actually don’t even need the dried spices if you don’t want that “different” flavour, but the garlic and beer are essential
2 tsp cumin, ground
2 tsp corriander, ground
a sprinkling of sea salt
cinnamon stick
2 cloves garlic, sliced
a few star anise pods
1 beer

sauce ingredients

Again, the measurements are approximate – imagine you are squeezing a sauce out of a bottle to spread on the ribs; that’s how much you want.

About a half cup of ketchup
A few spurts of soy sauce to make the sauce a very dark red
Hot sauce to taste
2 Tbs brown sugar
Juice from half a lemon
2 cloves crushed garlic

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 225˚F
Cut rack of ribs into pieces of 3-4 ribs each
Sprinkle ground cumin, coriander and salt over the ribs and place in a large dutch oven with a lid, or deep roasting pan
Pour in beer, being careful not to pour off the spices
Sprinkle garlic slices evenly about and throw in the anise pods and the cinnamon stick
Cover and cook for about three hours, or until the meat appears to be separating from the bone

Once cooked, remove the ribs from the dutch oven with tongs and place on a baking sheet.
Turn the oven up to 350˚

Being the dead of winter and the fact that -30˚C seems to be the new normal, I now finish the ribs off in the oven, but in that distant memory of warmer temps, I would always do it on the BBQ.  Remember the BBQ? No, me neither.  I can’t even see it out there.

With a spoon or a silicone brush, liberally baste the ribs with the BBQ sauce and cook in oven for another 20 minutes or so.  Feel free to baste again half way through.
Serve with home fries, pan grilled kale and a big salad and I guarantee you a chorus of mmmmms and ahhhhhhs and endless compliments from adults and kids alike.

There is nothing like hearing one of your teenage son’s friends, who looks more man than boy, come sniffing into your kitchen and exclaim “Wow, smellllls good in here!”  And never in a million years would they guess that you are a procrastinator.

Thai Pork – Too Tasty to be This Simple!

I had a laugh with some friends the other night about a group email I had sent not too long ago.  It was on the topic of a well known Canadian film director whom we had been discussing and I casually boasted that this director had gone to my Montreal high school and had dated my sister. My close friend and one of the recipients of the email was quick on the response: “Lindsay, he actually went to my high school and dated my sister.”  Busted. How it was that I came to believe this as my story, I cannot explain.  I swear this is not Brian Williams syndrome.  Maybe more of a Montreal thing.  But it’s akin to the recipe syndrome, you know, when that dish that you make all the time becomes your signature dish, except that really, it came from someone else and you just forgot.  At a party once, I properly credited a friend for an appetizer I had brought; “Oh thank you,” I replied to the compliment, “It’s actually Friend‘s recipe”.  Well, as it happened, we were within earshot of another friend; “No actually,” she said, ” Friend got that recipe from me, and I got it from Another Friend”. So, first Friend, busted, big time.  The thing is, she had made it so many times, she had come to believe it as her own.  And sometimes it can become your own as you morph it, unknowingly, into something new.

This is what happened with this Thai pork dish. My friend Yenil made it for me years ago when I had just moved back from London and we were in our “wow we think we can cook” phase.  We made it several times together and then she upped and moved to London.  I continued cooking it over the years, moderating the spiciness as children entered our lives.  It even became Son #2’s favourite dish from age 3, “the yellow dish” he would call it, in reference to the turmeric.  Many years and many kids later between us, we rented a house with Yenil’s family in Dartmouth and one day, facing our what-to-cook-for-dinner-decision-making plight, we jubilated at the prospect of making the pork Thai dish together again. Neither of us had the recipe written down, as we were away from our homes, but we both knew it so well, 20 years later. Well, fisticuffs in the kitchen! “No, Yenil, we’re supposed to use rice noodles, not soba.  And what are you talking about, tofu – it’s pork!”  “Umm, Lindsay, this is my recipe? I think ought to know?” And so it went; we had each developed an entirely different version, and thus we celebrate creativity in amateur cooking.  Plus, I can safely call this one my own!

Special Equipment

-wok (otherwise, use a large frying pan)

Ingredients  (serves 4-5)

1 package rice stick noodles (1 lb), which is gluten free, by the way, and now widely available in supermarkets
2 Tbs vegetable or canola oil (olive oil will burn too high)
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 tsp red curry paste (again, easily available in supermarkets)
1 can, or slightly less, coconut milk
1/2lb – 1 lb ground pork
2-3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 Tbs fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
spring onions, chopped, to garnish
half a bunch of cilantro, chopped, to garnish

The above amounts are very flexible and just depends on the flavour you are searching for. Obviously more curry paste is spicier, more coconut milk is sweeter, less spicy, and a bit heavier. I like lots of garlic and despite the smell of fish sauce, don’t skimp on this – it’s a crucial flavour!

Instructions

It’s best to do all the chopping first and even measure out the non chopping ingredients as once you start, the process is quite quick.

-Boil a large pot of water and soak noodles for 5 minutes or so until al dente, then drain and set aside.
-In the meantime, heat the oil in the wok.
-Add garlic and stir; a few seconds later as it is about to turn golden, add the curry paste and continue to stir.
-Add the coconut milk, stir it all about, bring it to a boil and then simmer for a bit to let it reduce.
-Add the pork and stir, getting rid of any clumps
-Add the stock, curry powder, turmeric, sugar, lemon juice and fish stock
-Cook through and then and continue cooking until there is a lovely curry consistency, yet slightly soupy

-Add the noodles to the mixture, a bit at a time, making sure there aren’t too many noodles for the sauce – it’s a fine balance and once you make this enough to call it your own, you’ll know exactly the mix you seek.

-Serve onto plates or bowls and garnish with lots of green onion and cilantro, or let everyone garnish their own to taste.  The dish certainly looks prettier with a bit of green sprinkled on top!

Leftovers are fantastic the next day as the flavours get to sit together all night.  Just remember to garnish again.

And in honour of this recipe, passed to me orally from my friend, may I repeat the words out of The Original Thai Cookbook: “The art of Thai cooking is essentially one of creation, experimentation and improvisation.  It has always been an oral tradition, handed down from family to family through generations.  There are as many ways to make a dish as there are cooks to cook it.”

What’s For Dinner Maddie wishes you Sanook, a word that embodies the spirit of the Thai attitude to life: the resolve to look for the joy in life!

Trending: Kale. OK, the moment passed, but try Pan Grilled Kale

I think of myself as someone who doesn’t fall for trends.  Except that I do. And then I must eat my anti-trend words (think cellphones, skinny jeans. Though I will NOT go high waisted and nor will I ever wear a smartwatch, despite their promise to enhance my real life experience).  Naturally, I instead think of myself as a trend-setter, just like my mother who took credit when her friends wore bandanas on their heads, so I suspect that delusion of this sort is hereditary.  Truthfully, I am probably just a quiet follower who gets all noisy claiming credit when a good thing comes my way. Sometimes, however, I do know when I’ve happed upon a good thing, be it avant garde or passé.  Kale is one of those things.

Apparently kale has had its day in the limelight, but I say, shine on! It is hailed as one of the world’s healthiest foods with all those essential healthful elements that are listed on those “A” lists of nutrients and anti-oxidant/inflammatory/cancer, along with spinach and cabbage and other nose scrunching greens. Heck, I’d serve it every day, since its taste certainly outperforms its brethren. It even made it into the Air Canada lounge as a staple salad, next to the other staple of humous and pita – hmm, perhaps that’s when They decided that kale was passé…

This Pan Grilled Kale never fails to satiate the young and old alike, teenage boys in droves, preteen picky eater girls, fussy foodie chef-trained friends; all of them.  Kale is available at any grocery store and it keeps in the fridge longer than a lot of those other greens that are now wilted in your crisper. The recipe is derived from something my friend Gill cooked once at a dinner party I had; her recipe had a myriad of greens including chard and collard greens and she threw a sprinkling of chili flakes and a splash of balsamic on top for more depth in flavour.  The options are limitless, but as the dish became a staple in my house, replacing the ubiquitous blanched green beans, it got super simplified and remained awfully tasty.

If you don’t have a grill pan, not to worry, use a heavy based frying pan. Quite frankly, I have no idea why it tastes better in a grill pan; maybe more moisture is released due to the ridges, or maybe it just sounds romantic.  In any event, I serve this with everything; fish, steak, on its own for lunch.  Anything goes.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale (or however much you need)
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced (I use more, because once browned it loses it’s intensity and adds a lovely crunch)
olive oil
sea salt

 Instructions:

 -Heat grill pan over medium heat and drizzle a bit of olive oil in pan.
-Add kale in batches, turning with tongs as you place in pan so as to coat with the olive oil.
-Once all kale is in pan, allow to fry for a couple minutes, tossing occasionally so that it cooks evenly.
-Add garlic slices and continue to toss.
-Kale is ready once garlic starts to turn slightly golden and some of the kale turns slightly crispy. It’s fine even if it remains wilted.
-Sprinkle with sea salt and serve!

-a touch of balsamic added to the pan at the end will add some tremendous flavour, but it may mean less crispy.

With no-fail kale, the other greens pale; you’ll have a whale of a dinner, and thus we hail, bon appetite, from What’s For Dinner Maddie!

 

poached salmon in a hurry

Cooking takes over our lives.  I mean it really does.  If we’re not actually cooking, we are thinking about cooking, or listening to complaints about what we cooked. Or what we didn’t. We plan to cook one thing and then for one reason or another we are cooking something else.  We go to the grocery store for one item and come out with several bags full.  And then we get home to find we forgot that one item.  We just never know how it’s going to go…

I awoke to a snowy Sunday morning without kids and without a hangover.  A perfect morning to test my mettle with the twenty-somethings at the burgeoning pastime of women’s outdoor shinny. A couple of leisurely lattés and a mouthful of granola later, I grabbed my skates and, being of the New Age, I checked my phone for Extremely Important Messages. One new message from Son #1.  Ohhh riiiiight, he was home. I wondered if the hangover was about to show up as well. Please can you make eggs benny because [Girlfriend] has been talking non-stop about it since that time we had them. I guess Girlfriend was upstairs as well… But I adore her, so what do you say?  Let’s face it, we are pleasers, us mothers, and we derive tremendous pleasure from pleasing them through food, our food. It’s our affirmation. It’s what we do.  OK, it’s all we do… Yes, I replied, I will pick up stuff on my way home from shinny. An immediate reply from one floor up, Shinny?? Now? I discovered recently that kids may actually survive that rare occasion we fail to please them instantly.  So off to shinny I went, though not, as it turned out, with the hoards of twenty-somethings; perhaps they can’t drive in inclement weather, but with a lone sixty-something who outplayed me. Maybe I was hungover.

And then I hit Loblaws.  Now Loblaws always has something on promotion and the trick is to buy it right then and toss it in the freezer. Or if you are a less than organised shopper/cooker/pleaser as I am, then that sale item is your meal for the night. Or both.  I realise it means you have to buy an extra plastic carrier bag, which pisses you off because you have a zillion in that drawer that you can’t open because it’s too stuffed with plastic carrier bags, but who knew that pork ribs and Tropicana orange juice and the jumbo sized bag of almost healthy Kettle Chips were going to be on sale? (Coming up on What’s For Dinner Maddie: ribs recipe). So yes, I got the eggs benny stuff and I got the bargain baby back ribs and the kale, and, and… But, the primo super sale item was fresh salmon fillets.  Now, admittedly, I hesitate to buy supermarket salmon, especially after my spoiled years in BC, but it can be fresh and it can be great.  A quick interrogation of the fish guy and I was satisfied; sold.  And then I got sidetracked making eggs Benedict and doing more pleasing and I forgot about it until almost evening when another text: Son #2 was arriving home from Snowboarding in 10 minutes and had to be at the hockey arena for the Gold Medal Game in 25 minutes.  Why, I wondered, was he snowboarding in the middle of a hockey tournament? But I hardly had time to pontificate. Shit, was all I thought, here we go again; what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks am I going to feed him? Ahhh yess, the salmon; Poached Salmon!

So simple, so quick, so healthful for the kid who needs to reboot his energy stores.  And you can do one piece on it’s own quickly:

ingredients:

Green onion, or shallot or chives; whatever you have, chopped; small handful per serving
Dill (a great addition but not necessary if not on hand, but easy to buy when you get the salmon),chopped, 1-2 tsp per serving
Salmon fillet, 4-6 oz per serving
Lemon
Sea salt

Working Your Magic:

-Preheat oven to 350
-Place salmon into an oven proof dish, in serving sized pieces if you like, or as one whole piece,
-Sprinkle with green onion, dill, and a bit of sea salt and squeeze lemon juice over it generously
-Pour a touch of water into bottom of dish, (not over the salmon!), enough to just cover the bottom; this is for the poaching (you could also sprinkle a wee bit of wine)
-Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes, perhaps slightly more, perhaps slightly less, depending on the thickness of the salmon.  Check for doneness by prying open a section of the salmon with a knife or a fork – it can be a bit darker pink in the middle (I prefer it this way) or a light pink throughout.  Just make sure it is not raw and sushi like.

Serve with steamed rice (preferably basmati) and your favourite green.

I cooked two pieces, one for Son #2 and one for his Dad who was shuttling him to the game, and I placed them in little plastic tupperwares on top of rice, with a scoop of leftover hollandaise from the eggs benedict (completely unnecessary, but it was there) for them to scarf down in the car.  I then cooked two more pieces for me and Daughter, which we thoroughly enjoyed with grilled kale before we went to cheer at the Gold Medal Game.

I never did hear if the menfolk enjoyed it; the hockey game was lost in a shoot-out and Son #2 is the goalie. The only utterances later that evening were grunts, and possibly a few stifled sniffles. What they don’t know is that, win or lose, we just love watching them play.

What’s For Dinner Maddie wishes you peace, love and omega 3s!

Stretch the meal an extra day:

Buy a box of arugula for a quick and delicious salad of arugula topped with cold salmon for lunch the next day, dressed with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt.  Optional: tomato.

shrimp marinated in cilantro and lime!

Here it is, the first post of the new concept site What’s For Dinner Maddie? 

There comes a time when the enjoyment of cooking journeys into a world of obligation, where creativity is supplanted by chore, where pleasing through food has long since morphed its way into servitude. That task, faced daily by a multitude of harangued mothers, that question that creeps up in the afternoon and can loom larger and larger well into the early evening of homework and dance and hockey and dog walking and last minute playdates… what the HELL am I going to make for dinner?  The answer lies here at What’s For Dinner Maddie?

I cannot describe myself as an organized person.  I can only say I have my standards, and when faced with this dinner issue daily, my pride, my self respect and all that my mother has passed down to me about healthy eating looms large, so a box of KD ain’t gonna do it.  There are others like me, so this is for you, and for me.  What’s For Dinner Maddie is the site where you can turn to when you simply haven’t the energy to process and plan and decide what to have for dinner. And where you can turn to for the odd anecdotal comments that may or may not make you chuckle.  Don’t worry, no Rob Ford jokes; I live in Toronto, so they were never that funny.  It is for that day when you feel you had a life and then you find yourself standing in front of the wide open fridge bored out of your skull trying to figure out how to please hungry little people and big people alike and not really wanting to make one of the four dishes in your repertoire, but not really wanting to make anything else either, because you are tired and fed up and no one is going to appreciate you anyway.  Well, maybe they will!  Because today you are going to mix it up a bit.  Today you remembered that you have that bag of frozen shrimp in your freezer that you bought on sale at Loblaws, and you are going to make shrimp marinated in cilantro and lime.

This recipe is off the top of my head, so the amounts are just estimations and you can be flexible (or creative!).

ingredients:

1 bag of uncooked shrimp, peeled
-right now in my freezer I have a 400g (about 1lb) of President’s Choice zipper back shrimp, unpeeled. The last time I made this, I used a bag of peeled white pacific shrimp. Peeling the shrimp takes an extra few minutes and your fingers stink a bit afterwards… WhatEverrrr
Juice from 2-3 limes
1 bunch cilantro
2-3 Tbs olive oil
sea salt to taste

Toss the lime and cilantro in a food processor or blender and whir them together while drizzling in the olive oil – as the olive oil gets absorbed, the ingredients will all bind together.  You may need to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spatula.

Toss mixture in a bowl with the shrimp and let marinate for about 20 mins; 10 is fine.

Heat a heavy based frying pan to medium and once hot, toss in shrimp; probably best to do in two batches.  Cook about 2-3 minutes per side, until they are pink and cooked through (don’t overcook or they get chewy).  Set aside in a fresh dish while you cook the second batch, and then once done, pour any remainder marinade into the pan and allow it to sizzle and thicken a bit and then toss the shrimp back into the pan to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Presto! Serve with rice and your favourite veg or salad. I would opt for crispy fried garlic kale.  Stay tuned for that staple up next on What’s For Dinner Maddie? 

Happy chowing!