Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fresh City Farms Ready-To-Eat Jars

Cooking is my thing. It's my stress reliever, my creative outlet, my pride, my joy, it's my world. While I love to cook as much as possible and share my creations with you all, it's not always a reality for me to get to cook every single meal. Short-cuts and quick-fixes are the only way I can get through a busy week without losing my mind sometimes. I'm often juggling a few different projects at once, which means a lot of running around, and bursting in the door well past dinner time, in a hangry stupor, searching for anything that can satiate me quickly! It's so easy to make poor choices when I'm caught in a hangry state like that, turning to my guilty pleasures (that always feel so good at first, and then inevitably leave me feeling disappointed) like a box of mac & cheese, a McDonalds meal, or just some good ol' peanut butter toast. Like I said, those options always seem like a good idea while I'm preparing them, but they always (and I mean always!) leave me feeling lousy and let down in the end. 

While I've been getting better at meal prep as of late, I still have those days where I need to have a meal on hand that's ready to go and will leave me feeling my best. With that in mind, an email from Fresh City Farms, inviting me to try out some of their new Ready-To-Eat meal jars came at the most opportune time!

Having visited Fresh City Farms two-acre Organic farm at Downsview Park (right in the city!) a few years ago, I knew first-hand the care and thought that they take in producing and sourcing some of the best produce you can find in Ontario. While they don't source all of their ingredients for their Ready-To-Eat jars from their own farm, they take great care to select almost exclusively certified organic ingredients, with exception of a few local producers who are not certified organic.
Beyond being impressed by the attention and importance that they place on having high-quality produce, I was also dazzled by the great selection of Ready-To-Eat jars that Fresh City Farms carries in their shop. With so many delicious sounding options (that fit a variety of different diets), the hardest part of the whole process was buckling down and getting decisive about my order. I wanted to try them all!! I ended up ordering the Butter Chicken Bowl (a total no-brainer!), Makhani Tofu Biryani, and Falafel Salad, with jars for Chris to try out as well for a second opinion. I also threw in some Tonica Kombucha, red beets, rutabaga, and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups from Green Zebra Kitchen. What a haul!

With my order placed, I was a little concerned that I would run into problems with my delivery. Both myself and Chris were going to be out the day our order was to be delivered, and my condo clearly states that they will not accept any deliveries that include non-perishables. I left instructions for the delivery person to call our buzzer and leave the order outside of our unit door. Even still, I wasn't sure that either Chris or myself would even be available to answer the buzzer to let the delivery person in. I was stressed! Luckily my stress was completely unfounded, as the delivery process was as smooth as can be! I got a phone call from Fresh City Farms to confirm my order was being delivered, and they were able to get into my building without any issue. Chris came home to find a lovely Fresh City Farms cooler bag, expertly packed with temperature controlled lunch bags and ice packs. For someone who works in marketing, Chris was seriously impressed!

I came home from work that evening completely starved and ready to dive into my Butter Chicken Bowl! A quick trip to the microwave was all my bowl needed to be ready to eat. It was such a perfect meal to come home to. I loved the big, bold, and comforting flavours of the butter chicken sauce, and the chicken was perfectly cooked and tender. With the jars being quite large, I even had some leftover as a snack the next day!
While the Butter Chicken jar was definitely my favourite, the other two jars were really tasty as well. Though I have to admit, I did end up adding some extra ingredients to the Falafel jar to bump up the flavour a little bit. I added chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of tahini, and a little hit of cayenne pepper for heat. I dunno, maybe it's just me, but I wanted a little bit more brightness, creaminess, and heat. I LOVED it after that! I have also been totally obsessed with kombucha since trying Tonica Kombucha from my order, and have been drinking it like a maniac ever since! My favourite flavour is their peach kombucha. I was also shocked by how delicious the Peanut Butter Cups were from Green Zebra Kitchen. My goodness, they were sooooo good! Not only were they tasty, they're also healthy and provide a quick energy boost thanks to the hit of protein in them. 

I am so happy with how my experience with Fresh City Farms went! It was easy, convenient, delicious, and at a fairly reasonable price-point considering the quality, organic certification, and delivery right to your door! I would highly recommend looking into their delivery service if you're anything like me and are looking for tasty and convenient options that will leave you feeling great in the midst of a busy week. Thank you so much to the lovely people at Fresh City Farms for reaching out to me and allowing me the opportunity to try their products!

This post was written in partnership with Fresh City Farms. All opinions and photographs are my own. 

Listening To:
Kendrick Lamar - XXX

Monday, March 27, 2017

Peter & Pat's Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Pierogies with Bacon & Brussel Sprouts

Hangry, a perfect word for summing up the overwhelming feeling of anger in response to hunger, and an emotion that you never want to catch me in the midst of! It's unpleasant, to say the least. In order to prevent unnecessary hangry episodes in my home,  I have to keep my kitchen stocked with quick and easy midweek dinner options so that I can get food into my hangry mouth as quickly as possible on busy evenings. Of course we will always have our shameful boxes of mac and cheese and instant pancake mix, but it's important for me to keep more "legit" options in my freezer as well. This is where I keep my store-bought asian dumplings, trays of homemade lasagna, chilli, and soup, and, one of my favourite go-to's, frozen pierogies! 

Frozen pierogies have come to be one of my all-time favourite weeknight go-to meals thanks to how convenient they are to store, their simplicity, satiety, delicious taste, and versatility. The amazing thing about pierogies is just how versatile they are. They come in so many different flavours, but more than that, the options for serving and topping pierogies are endless! 

Recently Peter & Pat's Pierogies reached out to me to introduce me to their line of Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Pierogies made from a 60-year old family recipe, with 100% real potatoes, and 100% natural ingredients. Disappointed with the usual pierogies I was buying at the grocery store, I was eager to try out Peter & Pat's product, which are now available for purchase at Costco locations throughout Canada. Not only did Peter & Pat's Pierogies provide me with a sample of their product, they also sent along a few recipes for me to try out with their pierogies! 

While I have always loved serving my pierogies with sautéed bacon and onions, with a big ol' dollop of sour cream, the combination of the bacon and sour cream (plus all of the bacon, potato, and cheese inside the pierogies) made the dish a little heavy for a weeknight meal. I loved Peter & Pat's suggestion to try the pierogies with sautéed brussel sprouts, with bacon and onions. Though the suggestion was to serve the perogies with quartered brussel sprouts on the side, I thought it would be even more delicious to serve just the sautéed brussel sprout leaves tossed right into the pierogies. Though it was a bit of an odd combo that I had never thought to try before, the brussel sprout leaves tasted so delicious with the pierogies, especially when combined with the bacon and onions. The brussel sprout leaves were fantastic for cutting all of the richness in the dish, giving it a really nice balance. 

More than just the serving suggestion, I was really impressed with the flavour of Peter & Pat's Pierogies. That 100% potato flavour came through really strong, with the flavour of the bacon and cheddar cheese merely complimenting the potato filling, as opposed to overwhelming it. I love how the potato remained the star! The pierogies also had a great texture, and featured the signature crimped edges that you find with homemade pierogies. I will definitely continue to keep their pierogies stocked in my freezer from now on! 

Be sure to keep your eye out for Peter & Pat's Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Pierogies at your local Costco, and try out the recipe for Pierogies with Bacon & Brussel Sprouts below! You're gonna love it! 

* Cutting bacon into lardons means slicing it into paper clip-sized pieces.

Serves 2
Ingredients:
14-20 frozen Peter & Pat's Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Pierogies
about 12 brussel sprouts, leaves picked, core discarded
4 slices bacon, cut into lardons*
1/2 medium onion, fine dice 
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, separated 
salt and pepper

Directions:
  1. Boil pierogies as directed on package. Drain and set aside. While pierogies are cooking prepare topping. 
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon at medium heat until fat has rendered. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside on a paper-towel lined dish. 
  3. Drain fat from pan, leaving 1-Tbsp. Add onion and cook for 1-2 minutes until softened. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon. 
  4. Add 1-Tbsp butter to pan and add brussel sprouts. Cook, stirring often, until leaves are slightly crisp and charred on the edges. Season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Add remaining 1-Tbsp butter along with pierogies, bacon, and onion to the brussel sprouts and toss to combine. Serve immediately. 
Listening To:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What We Dig Checks Out Southern Accent

Tonight I'm off to shoot another episode of What We Dig, but before I get to try another type of cuisine, I wanted to share with you the last episode that I got to co-host, at the new location of Southern Accent

My sister has lived in the Annex area for years, so Southern Accent came to be one of our favourite go-to restaurants in the area. I was always a sucker for their fried calamari, brisket with grits and collards, and, of course, their famous bourbon sours, so it was really fantastic to get to visit their new location on College Street, and try a few dishes that were previously unfamiliar to me. 

I had such an amazing time filming this episode with the lovely Debbie Dear, and was completely blown away by the unbelievable southern hospitality that all of the staff welcomed us with. Big shoutout to Wendy from Southern Accent who went above and beyond to make our experience special. Wendy was a very familiar face from their previous location, and it was so nice to see her taking on that same role of "the host with the most" in their new home.

Have you ever eaten at Southern Accent before? What's your favourite dish? Tell me about it in the comments, or tweet me: @thisgingerrose

Listening To:
Passionfruit - Drake

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Recreating Israeli-Style Falafel & Hummus At Home

If you've ever traveled to Israel, you'll know just how drastically different our falafel and hummus is here in Toronto. It would be an understatement to say that Toronto falafel and hummus are "just not as good," because, my lord, it's like an entirely different animal! I often say that Israel ruined me for falafel and hummus, because now I don't want to eat it anywhere else. We're lucky being in such a multicultural "food" city to have a few good options here and there (hello, Dr. Laffa, Famous Laffa, and Fat Pasha!), but it's not always easy to get to Bathurst and Lawrence for fresh laffa bread and creamy hummus, and as much as I love Fat Pasha, it can be a little hard on the budget at times. 

Two weeks ago, after a week of daydreaming about perfect fresh falafel balls and creamy hummus, I got inspired to finally try my hand at making my own falafel and hummus at home. I did a little bit of research online and found a recipe for falafel that sounded great, as well as a recipe for hummus that appeared to be just as creamy as the dips I devoured all over Israel. Being a last-minute decision to make both dishes, I unfortunately didn't start out with dried chickpeas, and had to settle for canned, and hoped to the Israeli falafel Gods that it would all work out. 

The falafel recipe I found was from an excerpt from Joan Nathan's book The Foods Of Israel Today on Epicurious, and caught my attention thanks to Nathan's description of her favourite falafel in Israel. Though I can't recall the exact name of the place where I had the best falafel that has ever touched my lips, I do remember what made it so special and how it made me feel. Nathan's description of her favourite falafel reminded me of my experience biting into my very first Israeli falafel (which just so happened to be the best of the whole trip!), and made me trust that her recipe would be a winner! The great thing about preparing falafel at home, is that you can prepare almost everything in advance and just quickly fry-to-order and assemble when ready to serve. 
The hummus recipe that I landed on was from Chef Michael Solomonov from the Israeli restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia, featured in the New York Times. With an emphasis in the description and Zahav's reviews on their unbelievably silky and creamy hummus, I was confident that this recipe would be a good starting point. 

Because hummus is incredibly simple to prepare, it's the little details that make all the difference in terms of achieving those dreamy creamy results. One of the biggest tricks to achieving silky smooth hummus is to over-cook your chickpeas and remove all of the skins. Starting with canned chickpeas, they were already quite soft and I was able to skip the step of boiling them until soft to the touch. Unfortunately, I still had a lot of work ahead of me in terms of removing the skins. I knew that I could easily remove most of the skins by rubbing the rinsed chickpeas in a clean towel, but I suppose I wanted to make things difficult on myself, and decided to remove each one individually. This was a mistake.

I put all of my chickpeas in a bowl of water and rubbed them with my fingers, hoping that all of the skins would float to the top. When the surface of my water was covered in chickpea skins, I figured they must all be off. I was sadly mistaken. I proceeded to check every single individual chickpea by pinching it between my pointer-finger and thumb to remove any remaining skin. It was crazy to see how many chickpea skins still remained! It was tedious and boring as hell, but absolutely worth it! I was determined to make that same wildly creamy hummus that I had been dreaming of! 
The second trick to achieving the ultimate creamy hummus is to add ice water when blending. Truthfully, I don't know why. It just works, and I'm not going to question it! It's what Anthony Rose taught us to do at the Metro & Fat Pasha cooking demo that he held at Taste of Toronto this summer, and it is what I will continue to do. 

I have to admit, after removing all of those damn chickpea skins, I announced "I'm over it!" and wanted to just collapse on the couch. Once my falafel mixture and hummus were in the fridge, I was worried that I still had a lot of work ahead of me frying up the falafel balls. I was lazy, and wanted to just relax, but I knew that after all of my hard work, I had to finish the dish. Thank goodness these falafel balls were actually the easiest things I have ever fried in my life! It was so fast, clean, and simple, we were eating our falafel in no time! 

I always want my final dish to taste spectacular, but when it's the first time making it, I expect that there will always be something that wasn't quite right. Though I do want to work on the hummus recipe a little bit (it was great,  but needs a bit of tweaking), the final falafel in pita (with all of the fixings, of course) was out-of-this-world, ridiculously delicious! Oh my God, guys, Chris and I were losing our shit, it was so good! We stuffed our faces, and ended up having two giant falafels each, even though we were so full, because we wanted to taste more. This will likely go down as one of my favourite things I've ever made, and am so incredibly excited to make it again! The next time I make it, I will most definitely be making it for friends and/or family, because it's not only a show-stopper, it's also so convenient to be able to prepare so much so far in advance. 

Remember: You can't always sub dried chickpeas equally for canned. Remember that canned chickpeas are already cooked, meaning that their volume has increased from the cooking process. A general rule-of-thumb is that 1-cup of dried chickpeas should equal roughly 3-cups of cooked chickpeas. Read every recipe carefully to see if they are referring to the volume of cooked or uncooked chickpeas, and if something feels off, trust your gut! 

Check out the recipe for Joan Nathan's favourite falafel, featuring fresh parsley and cilantro here.

Check out Zahar's super-silky hummus recipe from The New York Times here.

Listening To

Monday, February 27, 2017

Jumping On The Buddha Bowl Bandwagon

Go on any health-focused food blog and you will find some version of a brightly coloured Buddha Bowl. Come to think of it, do a quick scroll through your Instagram on any given weekday, and you're bound to find an image of some sort of Buddha Bowl there as well. It's clear to see that everyone is doing the Buddha Bowl, and it was my time to jump on the mindful eating bandwagon!

I'm big on eating leftovers for lunch, but not every dinner leaves me with enough tasty leftovers that I can work into a full lunch, meaning that I often turn to unhealthy quick-fixes that generally leave me feeling guilty, lethargic, and not very satiated. With some time to spare one morning last week, I figured I would take the time to jump into some food prep to get my Buddha Bowl game on for the week! Though my fridge didn't feel stocked, it was easy to come up with enough ingredients to make a delicious and satisfying bowl that I would feel excited to eat a few days in a row. 
I started by cubing up some sweet potato, tossing it in some herbs and spices, and throwing it into the oven for 20-30 minutes to roast. While my sweet potato cubes were tenderizing in the oven, I whipped up a few servings of quinoa with some homemade vegetable stock that I had ready in the freezer, and tossed some canned chickpeas in some spices and heated them up on the stove. By the time I had some sugar snap peas and cilantro chopped, and a tahini dressing whirred in the blender, my sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and quinoa were all ready! It was just that easy and fast. Throw everything in a bowl, drizzle it with dressing, and sprinkle with cashews and you've got yourself healthy and satisfying lunches for days! This dish is so simple and easy, there's no need to include a recipe at all! I just listed the ingredients, and even that is up for you to play around with. Use whatever ingredients you have on hand to make your Buddha Bowl work for you! How do you Buddha Bowl? 

Ingredients:
cooked quinoa 
roasted sweet potato, cubed
spiced, warmed chickpeas
sugar snap peas, sliced on a bias
lightly salted cashews
cilantro, finely chopped

Directions:
  1. Place quinoa in a bowl and top with sweet potato, chickpeas, and sugar snap peas. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle over cilantro and cashews. Serve. 
Listening To:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Salted Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies

You've heard the saying, perfection doesn't exist. As much as oftentimes we can have our own idea of what a perfect version of any particular thing is, we know that that idea of perfection is likely to be different from the person next to us. We all have a different perception of what perfection is. For example, while I felt that Beyoncé's Lemonade was a perfect album (even though I skip 'Sandcastles' every time it comes on), the Grammy judges felt that Adele's 25 was closer to excellence. I think it's crazy, but hey, we all have our own opinion of what's perfect. This is especially true when it comes to food, and most specifically, the beloved chocolate chip cookie.
Image by Chatelaine
Over the past year I've kept seeing charts breaking down "cookie logic," otherwise known as the "lite" science behind what makes a perfect chocolate chip cookie. From looking at these charts, I discovered that my idea of a perfect chocolate chip cookie is very different from say, Chatelaine Magazine's. In Chatelaine's chart (shown above) they believe that the perfect chocolate chip cookie is represented in the bottom right cookie. While I certainly wouldn't turn down a bite of that cookie, I felt the top left or right cookies were both closer to my idea of perfection. Using the search terms "perfect chocolate chip cookies" on some of my favourite food websites, I found an array of all sorts of different cookies that respected foodies deemed "perfect." It really puts in perspective how delusional the idea of universal perfection truly is.

For myself, my ultimate "perfect" chocolate chip cookie is a thin cookie with both semi-sweet and/or dark chocolate chips and pieces, with slightly crisp edges, a soft interior/centre, and some salt to combat the sweetness. I remember seeing an image of what I would have considered to be "perfect" chocolate chip cookies in an old William's Sonoma Cookies cookbook that I adored. They were those same thin cookies that I just described, and to me they looked like heaven. I never even made them, more swayed by the assortment of other interesting cookies that were unfamiliar to me, and have now misplaced my cookbook, but in my head those thin chocolate chip cookies will always be my idea of a perfect classic.
With the urge to make the perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies on the last day of this past beautiful long weekend, I turned to William's Sonoma once again, searching for their idea of a perfect cookie. Though their perfect cookies looked very different from the ones that I drooled over in my old book, I figured it would be a good start in terms of recipe development. To make the cookies a little bit more of my own and closer to my idea of perfection, I chose to swap some of the semi-sweet chocolate chips in the recipe for shards of chopped 90% Lindt Chocolate, as well as subbing part of the vanilla extract for bourbon, and topped them all off with one of my favourite ingredients, Maldon Salt.

Though I truly thought it would take me a few tries to get to achieve my perfect cookie, I am so happy to say that this recipe is it! I know I'm often prone to hyperbole, but the fates of the world were kind enough to deliver perfection to me. With crisp, slightly caramelized edges, chips of chocolate to bite into, with little bits of dark chocolate throughout, a soft interior that doesn't crumble when you bite in, and, of course, that crunchy, clean-salty taste from the Maldon Salt, these thin wonders are my idea of perfection. What's your idea of a perfect chocolate chip cookie? Try mine and let me know what you think! Tweet me your thoughts: @thisgingerrose.
Note: I like to use a quick-release cookie scoop for dropping my balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet to keep my hands clean and create uniform cookies. 

Adapted from Williams Sonoma 
Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour 
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
6 Tbsp. white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
1/2 tsp bourbon
1 heaping cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup 90% Lint Chocolate, chopped into small shards
Maldon Salt for garnish

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and kosher salt.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter with brown and white sugar on medium-high speed for 2-minutes.
  4. Add egg, vanilla extract, and bourbon and mix at medium-low-speed until well blended. 
  5. At low speed, add the flour in three-additions, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl before each new addition, and mix until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and Lindt shards. 
  6. Drop 1-Tbsp-sized pieces of dough onto prepared baking sheet, leaving 2-inches of space between each (see note). Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven, sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of Maldon Salt immediately, and allow to cool slightly while on baking sheet (about 2-3 minutes), and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What We Dig - Fat Pasha


Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining the What We Dig crew for an afternoon of Israeli and Jewish eats, as we took on Fat Pasha on Dupont. Though I have been to Fat Pasha several times before (and have always loved my experience!), it was so fun to be able to talk about one of my favourite dishes there, their Whole Roasted Cauliflower, and get to try two fantastic dishes that I have never tasted before, all on camera! Truly, I had such a blast and hope to get the opportunity to do more videos like this soon! Check out my episode to learn about three amazing dishes to try at Fat Pasha, and hear me embarrass myself over and over again with bad dad jokes! Enjoy!

Have you ever eaten at Fat Pasha before? What's your favourite dish? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me: @thisgingerrose.

Listening To:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Turkey & Dumplings Recipe

Last year I was introduced to what may possibly be the most comforting dish on the planet: Turkey & Dumplings. As you may know from my previous post on Turkey & Dumplings, I first had this Southern-inspired dish on my most recent birthday at the Toronto restaurant Omaw, and was totally taken by the fantastic contrast of flavours and textures represented in the dish. 

Chris and I promptly tried to recreate the dish in our own kitchen, and it turned out so ridiculously incredible! Of course, because we were playing around so much with the dish on our first go at making it, we weren't able to record a clear breakdown of the recipe. Alas, with such an amazing response from everyone on the photo that I posted of our Turkey & Dumplings copycat recipe, we had to give it another go, but this time carefully recording every step. 
So with that, I bring you our version of Turkey & Dumplings, a must-make recipe for any comfort-food lover! Last time we made this dish, we were lucky to have leftover Thanksgiving turkey on hand, so this time we decided to roast off some fresh turkey thighs, so that we could make this dish all year round. Thank you to The New York Times for providing a killer method for making roasted turkey pieces that taste like they came off of a whole-roasted bird! You can find our slightly modified recipe for roasted turkey thighs below as well. 

Tip: Save the turkey skin after roasting and fry into crispy chips to use as a garnish! 

Ingredients:
4 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 medium onion, small dice
2 stalks celery, small dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn niblets
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, leaves picked
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
3/4 cup roasted or smoked ham, diced
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 medium/large parmesan rind
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. sour cream
about 2 cups shredded roasted turkey meat (dark meat) *see recipe below for roasting turkey thighs
kosher salt and pepper to season
Beurre Manie 
1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. cold butter
Dumplings (Tyler Florence Recipe)
1 cup flour
1/2 Tbsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs
3/4 buttermilk

Directions:
  1. Set a large dutch oven on the stove set to medium heat.
  2. In a separate medium pot, heat stock to medium heat. 
  3. Add onion to dutch oven and heat. Add carrots and celery and sweat. Season with salt and pepper. Add corn, garlic, and thyme and cook for 30-seconds - 1-minute. 
  4. Add 3 Tbsp. butter and melt. Add flour and stir to make a roux. Cook for about 1-minute.
  5. Slowly begin adding in the stock, one ladle at a time, while stirring to incorporate. 
  6. Add in ham, bay leaves, cayenne, and parmesan rind. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low, and simmer for 30-minutes. 
  7. Remove bay leaves. Add in grated parmesan cheese and sour cream. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. If mouthfeel is off and the soup is too thin, prepare a Beurre Manie. 
  8. To make a Beurre Manie: combine 1 Tbsp. flour with 1 Tbsp. cold butter and smoosh together with the back of a spoon. If you want, get right in there and smoosh it together with your fingers to form a paste. Drop the paste bit by bit into your soup and stir in. 
  9. Make Dumplings. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a small bowl, lightly beat together eggs with buttermilk. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. If it feels too tough, add in another few tablespoons of milk. Drop spoonfuls of batter directly into the soup. Simmer for 10-15-minutes, flipping part way through. 
  10. Stir in turkey and any drippings (you may also add in the garlic and onion that was roasted with the turkey thighs). Cook 5 minutes. Serve immediately. 
Roasted Turkey Thighs
(Slightly adapted from The New York Times)
Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 turkey thighs, washed & dried
salt and pepper to season
rosemary salt (optional)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves, whole 
4 thyme sprigs

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 450ºF. 
  2. Stir together butter and thyme leaves and rub all over turkey pieces, making sure to get some underneath the turkey skin.
  3. Season generously with salt and pepper, and rosemary salt (if you have any!). 
  4. Toss celery, carrot, onion, and garlic with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Place thighs in a medium roasting dish or baking pan and tuck the celery, carrot, onion, garlic, and thyme sprigs around the meat. 
  6. Roast for 30-minutes. Reduce heat to 325ºF and roast for an additional 15-20-minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF, while basting occasionally with accumulated juices. 
  7. Remove from oven and tent with tin foil for 30-minutes. Separate the meat from the bones and shred with 2 forks. Set aside in fridge until ready to use. 
Listening To

Monday, January 16, 2017

Italian-Inspired Potato Hash

With 2017 well into it's first month, it comes as no surprise that myself, along with seemingly everybody else on social media, is trying to go into the new year with a fresh and healthy perspective. While I have zero interest in eliminating anything from my diet, what I am trying to focus on this year is being more conscious about including fresh and healthy ingredients into every meal, with a big emphasis on balance. I'm never going to give up pastries, cheese, and cured meats, so I have to accept that if I want to make those types of foods apart of my life, I have to be able to compromise by balancing them out with the good stuff. This means lots more fruits and veg, whole grains, pulses, and most definitely a lot more colour! 

With this healthy perspective fresh in my mind, I've been trying to come up with new and exciting dinner options that will allow me to carry through my new diet goals (note that I say the word 'diet' as as in "the food and drink regularly provided or consumed," not in the restrictive sense of the word). As usual, my starting place for creating almost every recipe is by taking a look through my fridge and pantry. With some leftover pancetta and a bag full of mini Blushing Belle potatoes, the idea of a dinnertime hash came to mind. Wanting to stray from a lot of the potato hash recipes I found online, I took the pancetta as my spark for creating a unified theme to the dish. My hash would be Italian-Inspired! By adding in a cubanelle pepper, roasted cherry tomatoes, cannellini beans, and pesto, suddenly my potato hash took on the flavours of one of my favourite types of cuisine. Hearty, comforting, and full of flavour, the hash turned out delicious, and also was fantastic warmed up again the next day as a leftover breakfast. 
A hash is a great starting point for intermediate cooks who are looking to feel more confident and have more freedom in the kitchen. This is a great dish for practicing your knife skills, as well as developing your flavour palate. Play around with my recipe. Sub-in ingredients that you have in your fridge. Don't have cubanelle peppers but you do have a red pepper pepper lying around? Use that! Maybe you prefer sundried tomato pesto to a basil one? Sub that in! Play around with seasoning each aspect of this dish so you can start to learn how to taste and season as you go. If you don't use pinch bowls, start! Feeling your spices as you add them in will give you a better feel for exactly how much you're adding, and will overall make you a much better cook. If you don't already use kosher salt and are still using table table salt, this is also a great time to make that switch. Coarse kosher salt allows you to really feel the grains between your fingers, once again, allowing you to get a better sense of how much you're adding.

Ingredients:
1 dry pint cherry tomatoes
1/4 medium onion, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1.5 lb Blushing Bell Mini Potatoes, diced
1/4 cup pancetta, diced
1/4 medium onion, diced
1 cubanelle pepper, seeds removed and diced
1/2 cup canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 Tbsp basil pesto (I used a homemade basil and walnut pesto, but you can use what you have!)
salt and pepper
eggs for serving

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Toss together tomatoes with sliced onion and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake until charred and wrinkly, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside.
  3. While tomatoes are cooking, prepare potatoes. Add potatoes to a large pot and fill with enough water to cover potatoes by at least 1-inch. Generously salt water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 5-minutes. Drain immediately. Set aside.
  4. In a large skillet set to medium heat, add pancetta and cook until fat has rendered and pancetta is crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to set aside to drain on paper towels.
  5. Add diced onion and sweat. Add cubanelle pepper and cook until slightly softened. Add cannellini beans and cook, stirring occasionally until heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir in prepared roasted tomatoes, sliced onion, and pancetta.
  7. Gently stir in the potatoes and pesto, being careful not to break up the potatoes too much. Season as needed with salt and pepper. 
  8. Serve immediately, with each serving topped with a freshly fried (or poached!) egg. 
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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Perfecting Potato Latkes (Updated)

Every Chanukah is a new opportunity to step up your potato latke game. Though each year my latkes get a little better, it wasn't until this year that they just may have reached the point of perfection. I'm not going to bore you with my history of eating and making latkes, I'm just going to get right to the point and tell you straight up my tips and tricks for creating potato latke excellence. 

Start With A Great Latke Recipe As Your Guide
I personally think that Bon Appétit has a fantastic recipe for potato latkes that I like to use as a general guide. It's really hard to list exact ingredient amounts for latkes, because it all depends on the size and flavour of your potatoes. Use the recipe as a rough guide for which ingredients to use and how much you should use of each one. I don't bother with measuring my ingredients anymore, I just go by sight and memory, and after you make your first batch, that's all you'll ever need too. While Bon Appétit's recipe is great, I adjusted it slightly by mincing my onion, and doing 2 Tbsp plain breadcrumbs, and 2 Tbsp panko breadcrumbs, instead of the grated onion and 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs listed in their recipe. Check out their recipe and method here

Start With The Right Potatoes
Step one to making the ultimate latkes is using the correct potatoes. Though my dear love, Ina Garten likes to use a combo of both Yukon Gold and Russets, it has been in my experience to always go for all Russets. I have to admit, that the only times that I've strayed from Russet potatoes, I've gone pure Yukon Gold, so perhaps Ina knows something I don't, and maybe (maaaaybe) next year I'll give her method a try. Russets tend to be the favourite for potato latkes thanks to their high-starch, and low-moisture content, which is key in achieving a crisp latke. 

Grate Your Potatoes
Though everyone has their preference, I love a nice lacy, grated potato for my latkes. I adore the texture and think that it delivers the best crispness on the outside, while still leaving the interior of the pancake soft and tender. Grating by hand is fine if you're doing only one or two potatoes, but any more and you may never want to make latkes ever again. I recommend lugging out your food processor to do do the work for you. Swap in the grating attachment and see how quickly your potatoes are grated! Dare I say, it's a "grate" tool! (I can't stop with the dad jokes!)

Add Onion
While I'm sure there are polarizing thoughts on whether to add onion to your latkes or not, I find them essential! I love the flavour that the onion adds to the rather bland potatoes, making them a more savoury side dish, which I think complements the sweet apple sauce topping wonderfully! I used to grate my onion in as well, but I found that they taste all the better when the onion is invisible. I mince mine up super fine so they blend right into the lacy potato shreds, adding their flavour without compromising on texture, or risking someone getting a big chunk of onion in their pancake. 

Squeeze Out The Liquid
This is likely THE most essential step in making the ultimate potato latkes. I mean it when I say DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! Don't even try to. There are no short cuts. As soon as my potatoes are grated and my minced onion in stirred in, I pour everything into a clean kitchen towel with a bowl resting underneath and squeeze the hell out of that stuff! Squeeze, and squeeze, and squeeze until hardly anymore liquid comes out. Then carefully open up your towel, stir around the contents, and guess what?....You squeeze, and squeeze, and squeeze again! I like to place a bowl underneath to catch all of the starchy potato liquid. After a few minutes the natural starch from the potato liquid will fall to the bottom of the bowl, allowing you to pour out the water and add the thick starch back into your potatoes. I like to do this to help my potato mixture hold together in the pan, as well as ensure my latkes are as crisp as possible. 

Season & Bind
Once your shredded potatoes are squeezed out as much as possible, it's time to season and bind everything together. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs (I do 2-3 for every five potatoes), some baking powder, and some breadcrumbs (I like to do half regular breadcrumbs, and half panko) and combine it into your potato and onion mixture. You want the mixture to be moist but not soupy at all. If it's not moistened enough from the egg, it won't hold together, and with too much egg, you've got yourself a weird omelette/latke hybrid. In terms of seasoning, I start with a couple of large pinches of salt and pepper, and then fry off a test latke to taste. If needed, I will season once again, and continue with the rest of the pancakes. 

Flavour Your Oil
This was one step that I was so excited to add to my latkes this year. Previously, I have only used vegetable oil for frying my latkes, but couldn't resist picking up a container of duck fat from St. Lawrence Market to aid in flavouring the plain vegetable oil. While schmaltz (chicken fat) is traditionally used, duck fat sounded oh-so-luxurious and was what I found first. The duck fat not only gave my latkes even more flavour, they also helped to crisp them up even more. 

Your Cast Iron Is Your Friend
While no, it's not absolutely essential to use a big, heavy cast iron pan to fry your potato latkes, I find that it makes a world of a difference! As soon as I started frying my latkes in a cast iron, my latkes when from "novice" to "expert." I will never go back to my regular All-Clad's or nonstick for frying latkes, ever! 

Keep 'em Warm
Because frying up batches of potato latkes is quite tedious and time consuming, I keep my oven preheated to 325ºF, with a baking sheet set inside, so I can place my fried and drained latkes to keep them warm and crisp. Before I place any latkes in the oven, I'm sure to take them straight from the cast iron to a prepared wire rack set over a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. This allows any excess oil to drain off. 

Serve Immediately!
I don't care what you say, latkes DO NOT taste the same the next day. Sure, they may still be incredibly tasty, but they sure ain't the brilliant and crispy pancakes that you made the day before. It's all about the texture. Latkes are meant to be served right away! So as soon as you're done frying up all of your shredded potatoes, get those babies on the table! After spending so much time on your feet in the kitchen, frying up batch upon batch of latkes, while your clothes and furniture soak up the smell, you owe it to yourself to serve them as they were intended to taste. I like to make extra so I can eat some immediately, and then have more for leftovers throughout the week. 

Have any other questions or concerns about making potato latkes? Leave me a comment here or tweet me: @thisgingerrose.

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