Category Archives: Simple Pleasures

Quickles – Quick Vinegar Pickles

Quickles

These quick pickles are incredibly versatile and take only minutes to make. I love them with rice or sweet shiitake and they go well with just about anything. Best thing is that they last for weeks in the fridge. Let’s make some pickles!

You will need:

  • 1 cup hot water
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 English cucumbers, carrots, daikon, or whatever you like

 

Slice your veg into ⅛ – ¼ inch slices and add to a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, mix well, and set aside for about 10 minutes.

In a plastic container or jar (750ml), combine the water, rice vinegar, and sugar. Mix well until the sugar is dissolved.

Take the veg out of the bowl, shake off the excess moisture, and add to the liquid. Cover with the lid and refrigerate overnight.

Pickles will keep in the fridge for about 3-4 weeks, if they last that long!

 

What is your favourite pickled vegetable?

 

Thai-style Green Apple Salad

Thai Green Apple Salad by The Aimless Cook

This Thai-style salad is a lot like som tam, but uses green apples instead of green papaya. Since green papaya can be hard to find, the green apple provides a nice tart flavour and crisp texture that’s incredible in this type of salad. I hope you love it!

You will need:

 

  • 1 Granny Smith apple, julienned
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1 large shallot, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 small handful grape tomatoes, quartered
  • ¼ cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
  • 1 tablespoon dried shrimp
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts
  • the juice of ½ lime
  • fish sauce, to taste
  • sugar, to taste
  • 2 Thai chilies, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

In a mortar and pestle, add the green beans and about 6 grape tomatoes cut in half. To that, add the shallots, chilies, a tablespoon of dried shrimp, and a clove or 2 of garlic. Pound that mixture together until the tomatoes are crushed and the green beans are bruised.

Season your mixture with about a teaspoon each of fish sauce and sugar and continue to lightly mix in the mortar and pestle until the ingredients are combined. Finally, add a ¼ cup of roasted peanuts and crush them coarsely.

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can do all of this with a ziplock bag and a rolling pin.

Combine the contents of the mortar and pestle with the apple and carrots in a large mixing bowl. Add the shallots, toss everything together and give it a final taste. Balance out the flavours if you have to and finish by adding a handful of fresh chopped cilantro. Traditional som tam is made entirely in the mortar and pestle, but I wanted to preserve the crunchy texture and look of the apples and carrots.

This salad is great on its own, or as a side with some fish or this home-style fried chicken which I’ll show you in the next episode.

When was the last time you used a fruit as a vegetable?

Pickled Jalapenos

Pickled Jalapenos by The Aimless Cook

Pickled jalapenos are so easy to make, you’ll wonder why you’ve been buying them all this time! Best of all, you can use this recipe for carrots, daikon, or whatever you’re favourite vegetable happens to be. They’re delicious on tacos, nachos, omelettes, or in this case, breakfast tostadas. Try for yourself and discover your own amazing combination!

You will need:

  • 1lb fresh jalapenos, cut into ⅛” slices
  • 1 ½ cups palm vinegar (or any light coloured vinegar)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar

Grab a container large enough to fit the jalapenos, put them in, and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the liquid ingredients and whisk together. Bring to a boil, stirring til the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat, pour over the jalapenos and allow to cool thoroughly. When cool, put in the refrigerator and let sit overnight. That’s it!

Pickled jalapenos are awesome. The pickling tones down the heat and gives them a nice gentle heat. They’re versatile too, as you can use them on almost anything. Check out these amazingly simple breakfast tostadas using just a few everyday ingredients.

  • tostadas (available at the grocery store in the Mexican food section)
  • eggs
  • bacon, chorizo or longonisa
  • shredded cheese
  • fresh cilantro
  • lime juice
  • salsa
  • sour cream or crema
  • pickled jalapenos
  • avocadoes

Use your imagination! You can use whatever you have in the fridge to make a colourful and tasty breakfast that’s a fresh departure from the usual. Have fun in the kitchen!

What do you like to put your pickled jalapenos on?

Scrambled eggs like a BOSS: http://youtu.be/MMtlZ8DEZTo
Salsa & Pico de Gallo vid: http://youtu.be/nfRuI7mbRYk

Tsukimi Udon – Moon Viewing Noodles

Tsukimi Udon by The Aimless Cook

Tsukimi Udon, or “Moon Viewing” Noodles are named for the egg that’s placed in the bowl as this Japanese dish is served. It’s usually a very simple affair, sometimes even consisting of a bowl of freshly prepared udon noodles, soy sauce, green onions and a raw egg. Today I will show you how to make my version of tsukimi udon using fresh oyster mushrooms, snow peas and a really easy soup broth. Enjoy!

You will need:

  • 2 servings udon noodles
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 ⅓ teaspoons dashi powder
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 small pieces of lemon zest
  • 6 snow peas
  • 1 cup oyster mushrooms (or whatever you got)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs

Start with 2 saucepans, one large and one small. Fill the large sauce pan with water and bring to a rolling boil. While you’re waiting for that, combine the soy sauce, mirin and brown sugar in a small bowl. Put 2 ½ cups of water in the small saucepan and the dashi powder. Bring to a simmer to dissolve the dashi powder then add ⅔ of the soy mixture. Bring to a boil, stir to combine, then lower the heat to simmer. At this point, you can add the snow peas so they cook briefly.

Shred the oyster mushrooms to manageable pieces then add to a frying pan on high heat with 2 tablespoons of butter. Saute the mushrooms for a few minutes til they are fragrant and golden brown. Add the remaining soy mixture and continue cooking til the mixture thickens. Set aside.

Add the udon noodles to the large pot of boiling water and cook til tender (according to directions).

With the eggs, you can serve them raw on top of the hot soup, poached, or make onsen tamago.

To assemble, start by putting a piece of lemon zest on the bottom of each bowl, followed by the strained noodles. Follow that with soup stock and then top with the snow peas, mushrooms and the egg. Garnish with a sprinkle of furikake and serve.

It’s customary to slurp your noodles with enthusiasm, so be sure to enjoy yourself! Do you like to slurp loud or eat your noodles quietly?

Natto Gohan (Fermented Soybeans on Rice)

Natto Gohan by The Aimless Cook

This particular Japanese style breakfast is one of the simplest to make. In fact, I make this whenever I need a quick snack. This is natto gohan.

You will need:

  • a couple packs of natto (available in the Asian grocer’s freezer)
  • some steamed rice
  • 2 eggs (raw, or soft poached)
  • furikake
  • chopped green onions
  • soy sauce

Natto is fermented soybeans which, like miso, are rich in protein. They are, however, an acquired taste since they have a powerful smell and slimy consistency. If you like stinky cheese, It’s nothing you haven’t experienced before and I highly recommend you try it.

Natto

Natto is sold in the freezer section of the local Asian grocery and is packaged in foam containers like these. They usually come with packets of tare (a tiny stock flavouring) and karashi mustard. The moment you open it, you’ll know what I mean about the slimy texture. To prepare the natto, just add the 2 packets and mix well with chopsticks.

Now grab a bowl ‘cause it’s time to put everything together.

Start with a large bowl with enough room to mix. Put in a couple scoops of freshly steamed rice and top with the natto. Make some room on the other side of the bowl for your egg. In this case, I’m using a fresh raw egg. If you don’t do raw eggs, you can use a soft poached egg instead. Lastly, I’m adding furikake to finish. Chopped green onions are are delicious as well so use them if you got them.

To enjoy, simply season with a little soy sauce and mix everything together. That’s it!

Natto gohan can be enjoyed on its own or with a nice bowl of miso soup. You can make natto gohan even better with some diced avocado or some raw tuna. Take this recipe, make it yours and have fun in the kitchen!

Do you like natto? Would you ever try it?

Honey Garlic Scallion Noodles

Honey Garlic Scallion Noodles

Here’s a great recipe that’s really delicious and easy to do. It’s a honey garlic scallion stir-fried noodle that’s sweet, with a touch of spice. If the flavour looks familiar, you’re right. It’s the same sauce from the Hawaiian chicken we did a few months ago. I added fresh chopped scallions for contrast and a splash of colour. You’re going to love this recipe!

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili flake
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 454 g chow mein noodles
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions) chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped

In a large mixing bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, Korean chili flakes and sesame seeds. To that, add a couple tablespoons of minced garlic and a tablespoon of honey. Whisk to combine and give it a little taste. Adjust to taste and set aside.

Next, take the chow mein noodles and blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Drain well then set aside.

Heat up a couple tablespoons of oil in a pan or wok on high heat. Add the noodles and a tablespoon of finely chopped ginger and stirfry for a couple minutes. Add half a bunch of chopped scallions and continue cooking for another 30 seconds.

When that’s done, add your sauce and continue to stirfry for another minute or so. Immediately plate up into bowls and garnish with more scallions for colour and fresh contrast. This is a quick dish to make and serve up alone or with grilled meat. Try it at home and enjoy!

 

When was the last time you had green onions?

Curanto Night

Curanto Style Leg of Lamb by The Aimless Cook

Curanto is an old-school cooking method still used today in Argentina. It uses heated rocks that cook food in a pit, very similar to Polynesian pit cooking. The food is placed on leaves or a blanket, which is laid on the hot rocks, then buried for several hours until the food is cooked. Of course, if you don’t want to dig a huge pit you can use what we used – a wheelbarrow. This was a lot of fun and I hope you try it out one day too!

You will need:

  • a wheelbarrow
  • some dry rocks (about 8 inches in diameter)
  • plenty of firewood (about 12 logs)
  • a shovel
  • a muslin, burlap or cotton sheet (dense enough to shield the food from the earth)
  • a whole leg of lamb (chickens work too, ribs, pork butt, etc)
  • some whole butternut squash
  • some whole russet potatoes
  • whatever root veg you want (carrots, beets, fennel bulbs etc)
  • time

for the spice rub:

  • equal parts (50g each) of fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds and cumin seeds
  • some smoked paprika (10-15%)
  • some dried Kashmiri chiles (to taste)

Start a fire with 6 logs and a layer of rocks. Let it burn down for an hour and then add another 6 logs and another layer of rocks. While that fire burns down, let’s make a spice rub for the lamb.

The spice rub we’re gonna make is called paanch phoron, also known as Indian 5-spice. Take equal portions (100g each) of fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds and cumin seeds and combine them in a large container or mixing bowl. You can also add about 15% of smoked sweet paprika for a little colour and punch. If you like a little spice, add some dried Kashmiri chilies to taste. You can store this mixture in an airtight container for months and take some out whenever you need it.

When you’re ready to use, simply roast the seeds in a dry cast iron skillet until fragrant then coarsely grind them in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Once the rocks are ready and the fire has burned down, shovel a 2 – 3 inch layer of earth in the bottom of the wheelbarrow. Carefully cover that layer with your hot rocks with hot embers to fill in the gaps. Cover again with more earth as an insulating layer.

We’re gonna use a cotton sheet to lay the food on. You can also use banana leaves, burlap or muslin. Just make sure that the layer you use is dense enough to shield the food from the earth.

Cover the food with another layer of cloth, then follow that with more earth. You want to have at least a couple inches above the rim of the wheelbarrow. Once everything is good and buried, just let it sit for about 5 hours.

After 5 hours, take off the cloth layer, being careful not to get any dirt on the food. At this point in time, your lamb should be around 145F and your veg should be nicely cooked.

Cooking outdoors is a lot of fun and very easy to do, just keep it safe and make sure your fire is completely out when you’re done. Take this recipe, make it yours and have fun out there!

QOTD:

What is your favourite food to cook outdoors?

Buffalo Style Roasted Cauliflower

Buffalo Style Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower is beautiful when roasted. It takes on a golden colour and the taste is transformed! I found this recipe on the internet and thought I’d share it with you.

You will need (for 4):

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 cup your favourite hot sauce (Frank’s works well with this recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

your favourite dressing (Bleu cheese, dill, etc)
In a large bowl, combine the dry mustard, garlic salt, flour and buttermilk. Whisk together until smooth, then set aside.

Gently add the cauliflower in the bowl and lightly toss to completely coat with the buttermilk mixture.

Place the cauliflower in a shallow baking dish (with non-stick spray) and bake in a 450F oven for about 15-18 minutes and you start to see a little colour. Meanwhile, combine the hot sauce and butter in a small bowl.

Carefully remove the cauliflower from the oven and pour the sauce mixture over it, stirring gently to coat evenly. Put the cauliflower back in the oven and cook for another 5-8 minutes until the sauce is baked in. When it’s done, simply plate up with your favourite dressing and enjoy!

Take this recipe with you, make it yours and have fun in the kitchen, which brings me to my question of the day:

Do you have a recipe to transform an otherwise boring vegetable?

 

source: The Curvy Carrot

Dave’s Ice Cream Sandwich

Dave's ice cream sandwich

Dave’s Ice Cream Sandwich is the wicked creation of my friend, local artist David Belcourt. He’s been telling me about this decadent confection for months and has been wanting to share it with you. What better way to start the new season than with the ultimate ice cream sandwich. This is serious business folks. Enjoy!

You will need:

  • a pack of bacon
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ cup roasted pistachios
  • the best quality vanilla ice cream you can get your hands on
  • brownies (recipe below)

Start by cutting the bacon into nice ¼ to ½ inch pieces and cook in a skillet on medium heat til nice and crispy. Drain the oil, then return the bacon to the pan. Add the maple syrup and continue to cook until the bacon and maple syrup is combined and nicely caramelized. Take off the heat and set aside.

In the same pan, cook the banana and brown sugar the sugar is dissolved and the bananas are slightly caramelized. Take off the heat and set aside.

Put the pistachios in a small sandwich bag or in a mortar and pestle and pound them until they are nicely crushed. Now let’s make a sandwich.

Cut the brownies into whatever size you want. Take a scoop of ice cream and set it on top of the brownie. Put on the candied bacon chunks, followed by the bananas. Finally, sprinkle on the crushed pistachios then finish with another brownie on top. Gently press down to set.

You can put your completed ice cream sandwich back in the freezer to set, or enjoy right away. I hope you had a great summer. Have fun in the kitchen!

The Brownie Recipe (from the Rehm family cookbook)

you will need:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cup flour

Very easy to do. Simply combine the wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then the dry ingredients in another mixing bowl. After that, add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix to combine. Pour the batter into a greased 9 x 13 inch cake pan. Put into a 350F preheated oven and let bake for 20 – 25 minutes. When done, let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting.

Elote – Mexican Style Grilled Corn

Elote - Mexican Style Grilled Corn

Elote is a popular Mexican street snack and is one of my favourite ways to enjoy roasted corn on the cob. Hot buttered corn is dressed with mayonnaise, fresh crumbled cotija cheese, chili for spice and served up with fresh lime. If you’ve never tried corn like this, you’re in for a treat!

makes 4 servings

  • 4 ears of corn, leave the husks on
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup, crumbled Cotija cheese (light feta will work if you can’t find it)
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • 1 tablespoon, ancho chili paste (or a couple of finely minced chili peppers)
  • salt

Soak 4 ears of corn with the husks on in water for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat your grill on high heat.

When the grill is hot, place the corn down on the grill and turn the heat down to low. Close the lid and let cook for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, take the husks off the corn and place back on the grill. Brush lightly with butter and continue to cook until the kernels start to take on a bit of colour. When they’re done, set aside.

If you have the ancho chili paste, combine with the mayo in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Combine ½ cup of mayo with 1 tablespoon of ancho chili paste then set aside.

Dress the corn by first spreading on some of the mayonnaise. Follow that by sprinkling on the cotija, followed by the minced chili peppers (some recipes use a chili powder or a Mexican spice blend called Tajin). Finally serve with some wedges of fresh lime and enjoy!

Take this recipe with you, make it yours and have fun in the kitchen…which brings me to my question of the day:

What is your favourite street food?