Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Not all Frozen Meals are Bad

Knorr did it again. It took my belief that frozen dinners were barely passable in quality and took it to a level of "Oh my God! This tastes like it was personally made for me and left in the freezer for me to have later" I was pleasantly shocked on a day when I didn't have a lot of energy or time to make something elaborate that Knorr frozen entrees worked in a pinch. Our store had two types brought up north for our sampling. I can't say they were cheap up here but their taste made the price okay.

The one I tried first was their Shrimp Fra Diavolo. Their peppers were actual peppers and nothing reconstituted. The pasta was soft and melt in your mouth. The shrimp felt like shrimp and not mush. The sauce was quite spicy but not in a "cover up the bad food" way. It felt and tasted freshly made. No weird aftertastes in the mouth. I was even pleasantly surprised to see that they had suggested wine pairings on the back too!
I tried the other one, Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli in Tomato Wine Sauce, not long after on another crazy day. In general I liked it but it had FAR too much large garlic slices in it. I love garlic but not that much!
I only found these frozen entrees on the Canadian entrance of the website. Are these frozen packs only available in Canada?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pollo Diavolo

Even before the time I was eating fish as my only animal protein I was never in love with chicken. I found the chicken I was served quite often inspid and boring unless with a very strong sauce. It wasn't the fault of the cooks, I was sure. It was just the nature of the beast. Modern, processed chicken sucked.
When I wandered back into the realm of eating chicken I wasn't impressed by the pathetic, water-infused excuse for chicken we can get around here. Then I encountered something new to me which changed my mind. Spatch-cocked whole chicken (from Shearwater not HERE), slathered in dijon mustard and olive oil and broiled. The addition of a mustard sauce for it was not so much of a tangy cover this time but an enhancement to the nice taste that, I'm sorry to say fat-phobics, the skin gave to the flesh. No dish this good should remain hidden so I offer up for you the recipe to Pollo Diavolo (Grilled Chicken with Mustard Sauce).

POLLO DIAVOLO -- An Umberto Menghi recipe

1 (2lb/1kg) frying chicken
1 clove garlic, cut in slivers
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Split chicken down the breast bone [spatch-cocking] but leave it attached by the back bone*. Flatten chicken out [the flatter the better].

Insert slivers of garlic under the chicken skin using the edge of a sharp knife. Rub the chicken with the oil and mustard [I mixed them together well before the rub]** Season with salt and pepper.

Make an incision on the inside of each thight along the bone to allow heat to penetrate chicken and for chicken to cook faster [Very wise. Do NOT skip]

Grill chicken on both sides for 10-15 minutes per side, basting chicken with oil as it cooks and adding more oil if necessary. ***

To test: pierce the inside of the thigh. If the juices run clear, chicken is done. Set chicken aside and keep warm.

Mustard Sauce:

1 tbsp butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp dry white wine
2 tbsp chicken consomme
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Saute onion in butter in a skillet on medium heat until onion is transparent.
Add wine and chicken consomme to onion and simmer on medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
Squeeze lemon juice directly into wine and chicken consomme and stir until well blended.
Add mustard to onion,wine, consomme and lemon juice. Stir until well blended and reduce by simmering on medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper

Put chicken on a warm serving platter or on warm plates. Coat with sauce and serve.

* This entails removing the wishbone from the neck area if you want an easier time cutting. Not for the easily frustrated!
** For some morbid reason rubbing oil into the skin of a cold lifeless body made me think of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs when he tries to get his victim to moisturize her skin. Sometimes I'm a sick puppy ;-)
*** Don't be dumb like me and get worried that there is nothing to baste with in the first five minutes. I added a tbsp extra as suggested and proceeded to get volatile poultry spitting on the element. Terrified that the small flameballs produced by the spitting, I lowered the rack. It seemed to do the trick.

While I was cooking the sauce, I chucked some cherry tomatoes into the broiling pan with the remaining oil and juices and broiled them for about 7 minutes. Their sweetness enhanced, they made a nice counterfoil for the sharp mustard and the savoury chicken. We also had some pasta, on Bennyfrog's suggestion, and I was pleasantly surprised at how nicely it suited the chicken dish.

Ben's own picture of the beast in process. I could believe how excited he was about tasting this chicken. He started snapping pictures of everything. The only time I ever see him take pictures of things is when we are playing D&D!

Sunday, May 28, 2006


What do you get when you cross a metal wireless tower that now stands as the highest object in town and a fourth thunderstorm in five months? NO INTERNET! Why? It was fried by the lightning. Again.

It seems completely ironic to me that the year in which we finally get our wireless tower up, we seem to have suffered more thunderstorms in half a year than the elders say have happened in a decade! Go figure, eh? So, I'm back... hopefully.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Grilled Quails

There have been a lot of first for me this week. One of them was the hollandaise sauce, the other was my future post about a mustard chicken I made yesterday and the other was quail.

I got some quail at Christmas time and figured I should get them used up. Knowing The Frog's preference for savoury over sweet it left out a few recipes I did have for quail but, now that I had taken home a sage plant two months ago, I had what I needed for one I had looked at before: Grilled Quails. It's not fussy and pretty straight-forward. I was terrified of overcooking those teeny little things but a hovering Frog ensured "not yet... not golden enough... too grey... " Well... the pictures I took just didn't want to turn out well but the food itself was good both straight out of the over and as a midnight snack later (to which Frog will attest).

This leads me to my new favourite word of the week... "SPATCHCOCK"! I've done it now twice and let me tell you something... it's much easier to split a quail for roast than it is to split a chicken. Mu-u-u-u-u-u-ch easier. Snip snip and you have little spreadeagled quail bodies everywhere.

Here's the recipe:

Grilled Quails

4 quails [or 6 in my case.. they were very small]
2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil
8 small sage leaves [I only had 6 large]
2 garlic cloves [3 for my 6 birds]
1 small red chili; seeded and roughly chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley [forgot this, dang it, but it was still good]
lemon wedges

Split each quail through the breast bone with a sharp knife and then turn over. Press open hard with the heel of your hand to form a spatchcock. Transfer the quails to a shallow dish large enough to hold all the birds side by side.

Mix together the lemon, olive oil, sage leaves, garlic and chili and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over the quails and leave to marinate for 30 minutes, turning birds over after 15 minutes. Preheat the grill (broiler)

Place the quails, skin side up, on a grill tray. Position them 12-15 cm (5-6 inches) below the heat and grill (broil) for about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden and cooked through.

Serve hot or cold, with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and lemon wedges.


I served it with pasta and zucchini broiled with the quails. The zucchini were topped with breadcrumbs, butter and asiago cheese. Very Yum.

this recipe comes from one of my new favourite cook books: the food of italy: a journey for food lovers

Rhubarb Kuchen

Every spring I can't wait for the fresh new rhubarb. Among the favoured baked fruit desserts in my family when I was a child was this scrumptious rhubarb dish: rhubarb kuchen. It's not overly sweet and is good warm or cold. There are some who will not let my mom bring anything but this for get-togethers. I don't blame them. You can use frozen rhubarb in a pinch too. I just prefer to use fresh.

Rhubarb Kuchen

preheat oven to 375F

Mix together: 1 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt

Cut in 1 tbsp butter

Mix one egg with 2 tbsp milk separately

When combined, add egg mixture to dry ingredients until just moist. Pat the resulting dough into bottom of a sprayed 8x8 inch pan. Set aside.

Combine: 1 package (85g size) of strawberry jello
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
Mix with 3 cups diced rhubarb until well coated with jello mix.

Pour whole rhubarb mix over crust.

Mix well:2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
3 tbsp butter

Once combined, toss sugar mix (streusel) even over the top of the fruit layer.

Put into over and remove once the top is golden and the rhubarb tender

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Beginner's luck: Hollandaise Sauce

My beloved's birthday was last weekend but I made an actual birthday dinner for him on Monday last. I stupidly realized that I hadn't taken a picture of the lamb shoulder that I'd cooked for him (not perfect but definitely edible) until after it was all cut up.

There was one thing that I was really proud of, though. At the last minute a mustard sauce was requested by The Frog. My only hope was the hollondaise based mustard sauce I saw in one of my newest cook books: The Cook's Book In a complete panic about the timing I resorted to using the blender version because the one over the simmering water scared the heck out of me for fear of curdling or something. I have to say that the blender version was not only good but "a perfect texture" according to said Frog. The taste was really good although not as mustardy as he'd hoped. I'm including here the basic recipe because everyone should have a chance at making Hollandaise without fear.

Hollandaise Sauce: In a Blender

Makes 2 1/2 cups

2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp water
1 tsp lightly crushed white peppercorns
4 egg yolks
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, clarified
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of cayenne pepper

1) Place the vinegar, water and peppercorns in a small, heavy-based pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 minute, or until reduced by one-third (to about 2 1/2 tbsp). Remove from heat and leave until cold, then strain the liquid into a blender, adding a pinch of salt and pepper.

2) Place egg yolks with vinegar in blender. Blend for a few seconds [I did it for about 15 seconds but didn't seem to matter]. Heat the clarified butter. With the machine switched to the highest setting, trickle in the hot butter and blend until thick and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and seasoning.

Voila! It's just that simple.

Now, mind you, you have to clarify butter yourself if you can't get it in the store but that's only a matter of skimming off the solids while the butter slowly melts in a pan. That's easy enough for me. It's easy enough for anyone then.


To add a mustardy taste you can add 1 tbsp Dijon mustard at the end of the blending. Maybe it should be two if you REALLY like the taste of mustard like The Frog.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


For those of you who do go to my daily photo blog, I just want to let you know that I have changed the URL to

I'll have a some posts up for you all soon on my food blog. Got a little bogged down by work to think straight. In the meantime, here are some pictures of some of the food about which I will be blogging:

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Local Foods: Berry Shoots

So I was thinking about local food from this island. And thinking. And thinking. And it seemed every time I thought about it lately I was coming across kids with hands full of salmonberry shoots or hearing kids at the door begging their mom for 'some sugar, please!' or nearly bumping into kids suddenly stumbling out of large berry bushes with translucent green stems in their fingers. DUH!! There was my local food right there!

Every year the children in areas with salmonberry bushes treat themselves to the first taste of the berries before there are berries on the bush. A goodly chunk of the local kids know that the newest shoots on a salmonberry bush are sweet and tender once you pull off the thin thorny outer layer. Within lies a green stem generally between 2 to five inches long. Now you CAN eat them sans the sugar dip favoured by the kids, and no doubt this was the way used in the past, but the kids prefer to eat it with sugar to further enhance the berry taste. I've eaten them both ways and have to say that I prefer them with. The ones without do have a little bit of a astringent nature if eaten in too much quantity. Plus the sugared ones taste more like my preferred orange variety of berries than the more astringent reds.

Now I don't know if people can cook with them or not but I honestly don't know why not. Maybe I'll just have to make something up! Any suggestions?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Burnt hands and Halibut in Sorrel Sauce

You ever have one of those days when it takes at least three repetitions to understand what you are doing wrong? On Friday I found myself in the position of using a cooking technique that I've never done before: poaching fish in a frying pan inside an oven, removing the pan from said oven, removing the fish and then using the poaching liquid to make sauce. I am used to making a sauce seperately and/or cooking the fish on the stovetop. In the course of making the sauce I tried to move the now skin-sizzlingly hot pan around a few times. I grabbed the scorching handle THREE TIMES! It's a wonder I didn't do serious damage to myself. I think I'm paranoid enough not to do it again but sheesh! What does it take to get things in my brain these days?

The recipe itself was nice and basic: poached fish, a white sauce with wine and herbs. I can even claim it as a tribute to this month's blog theme: Eating Locally. The halibut was caught within a few kilometres of here. The sorrel comes from my own garden. It's probably as good as I will get for local food unless I make a seaweed salad or wait to the month's end for salmonberries. I think the fish dish was great but I'm a little disappointed in my sorrel which seems to have lost its sour edge. I'd repeat it with newer shoots a next time. Just remind me to wear heatproof gloves next time.

Halibut in Sorrel Sauce

Serves 4

1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup water
parchment paper
4 halibut fillets (6 oz each)
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Bring wine and water to a boil in a large oven-proof skillet that can hold fish fillets in one layer. Turn down the heat so that liquid barely simmers.
Cut a piece of parchment paper into a circle the size of the skillet. Butter one side of parchment paper and set aside.
Season fish fillets with salt and pepper. Place fish in the skillet and dot with butter.
Cover the fish with parchment paper, and tuck the edged of paper into the pan so that they touch the liquid and seal the fish.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes per inch of thickness. The fish is done when you can separate the flakes with a fork, but just a touch of translucency remains in the middle. Remove the fish to a plate and cover to keep warm.

2 tsp softened butter
2 tsp flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup chopped sorrel

Set the skillet with poaching liquid on the stove top over high heat, and reduce by half (about 5 minutes).
Mash flour and butter together into a smooth paste.
After the liquid has reduced, turn the heat down to low and whisk the butter paste into it until smooth. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the sauce thickens, 1-2 minutes.
Stir in the cream, bring to a boil stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Take off heat, and stir in sorrel.

Pour the sauce over halibut and serve.

For the life of me, I can't remember where I found this recipe but I know it's from the Net. It recommended wild rice and asparagus as side dishes. Can't say I could find any asparagus to use but I did have wild rice on hand. I think it was a good flavour match even if the Frog didn't. I don't think he liked it very much because it was chewy and not starchy. A pity since it tastes so toasty and yummy. But that's okay because there's more for me ;-)