Sunday, May 26, 2013

One Dish, Two Ways - Italian Potato Salad/Italian Potato Bake

My cousin is about to head off on a European adventure, and seeing as she will be away for her birthday, she decided to have a bit of a get together before she went. I offered to bring a dish and was told maybe a potato salad. The rest of the food being served was going to be Italian, which got me thinking. Italian Potato Salad? Does such a thing exist? I've never eaten a potato salad made with Italian flavours - sounds like experiment time!

I guess I should say up front, that I've never been the hugest fan of potato salad. I think because a lot that I've eaten have had a really strong, overly 'mayonnaise-y' ness to them, and not a lot of content beyond boiled potatoes and peas. And boiled potatoes are one of the blandest foods in the world. I like to pimp mine out a bit more. 

The previous night I had fried up some hot salami with slices of garlic for a different dish and thought that was the perfect start for Italian Potato Salad. I didn't have enough potato to make a salad large enough to share, so I added some sweet potato to the mix. And I had an abundance of red capsicums, so I roasted up a few to add a lovely sweetness and new texture to the mix. The sauce was made simply with greek yoghurt, dried oregano, sun dried tomatoes and seeded mustard. The result was pretty darn impressive. Something I would eat a whole plate of as a meal.

Unfortunately (but luckily for me), it was forgotten in the fridge at the party, and I got to take it home with me. Being a cold night, and my husband hoping for a hot dinner asked - could it be heated? Well...yes. The sauce is just greek yoghurt. I don't see why not! I poured the whole thing into an oven dish, added some thinly sliced Provolone cheese and baked it for 20 minutes until warmed through and the cheese was golden. Heaven!

So here's a dinner perfect two ways - Italian Potato Salad and Italian Potato Bake. (I forgot to take photos of it until it was out of the oven. Sorry!)


Italian Potato Salad/Bake
6 baby potatoes, quartered
2 small sweet potatoes, cut to similar size
2 small red capsicum
half hot salami sausage, thinly diced
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
300g Greek Yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
5 sun-dried tomatoes
2 teaspoons whole-seed mustard

Put the potatoes into a pot of water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, add the sweet potato. When potatoes are tender, but not completely soft, strain out water and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Store in fresh cold water until ready to assemble.

Meanwhile, roast the capsicums in a hot oven until the skin starts blistering. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to sweat a few minutes so you can peel the skin off. Discard innards and slice into strips. Set aside to cool.

Fry the salami in a medium hot pan, once starting to crispen and release oils, add the garlic slices and cook until everything is toasty. Drain really well on paper towels.

To make the sauce, blend the greek yoghurt, oregano, paprika and sundried tomatoes in a food processor or blender until well mixed and the tomatoes are chopped. Add the mustard and pulse a few times to distribute.

Combine all of the ingredients and add the sauce a bit at a time to ensure it's not too saucy. I ended up with too much sauce. Serve as potato salad.

To make the bake:
Heat oven to 180c
Pour potato salad into a casserole dish, add Provolone slices or thinly sliced/grated cheese of choice over the top and bake for 20 minutes or so until cheese is toasty and the sauce bubbles slightly add the edges.

This photo is of it served to the rear with a super-quick seafood marinara pasta I cooked while the potato salad became a potato bake!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mothers' Day Celebration Cake - Gâteau de Bayou with Toasty Salted Caramel Meringue

On top of forgetting to write down recipes I concoct for repeat cooking, I also have a huge stash of 'one day' recipes. These usually fall into two categories; difficult or time consuming to make - such as the slow cooked Puerco Pibil I discussed here. And cakes. Because when there's only two of us at home, we don't ever really need a whole cake. And I don't really want to be that person who constantly brings cake to work, so I usually limit my baking exploits to biscuits that my husband can take to work. But my brother, husband and I were putting on a late lunch/early dinner (linner!) for Mothers' Day a few weekends back. What more perfect reason to go through my 'one day' cake recipes?

This recipe I 'filed' away by copying the link and saving it in an email draft in 2011. Almost 2 years later (and after having received a creme brulee torch as a gift), it was time to bring it out. This was one of the birthday cakes on Oprah's 10th Birthday Season special and it appeals to two of my favourite sweet flavours - ginger and salted caramel. I made the cake Saturday afternoon and then the meringue the next day. And it was a huge hit. Visually, it's impressive, but tastewise it is too! The sweet of the meringue balances out against the spice of the ginger perfectly. But to be honest, the cake was at it's best for morning tea on Monday. I'm not sure if it was legitimately because the flavours develop more, or I hadn't stuffed myself full of food already, or because cake makes my work day better, or a combination of all of them. Either way, stored in an airtight container, it definitely stayed moist and delicious for a few days.

As with a lot of American recipes, I've had to make some substitutions due to lack of availability in Perth, but apart from that, it's just the recipe found on Oprah's site

Gâteau de Bayou with Toasty Salted Caramel Meringue
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
3 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tbsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 2/3 cup maple syrup
1 1/3 cups rice bran oil
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp Tabasco sauce

4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup

To make cake
Combine ginger and 1 1/3 cups of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes for the ginger to infuse. Set a sieve over a bowl and strain, pressuing the pulp with a spoon to get all the liquid out. Discard the pulp and let the ginger water cool.

Preheat oven to 170C. Grease a 10 inch Bundt pan with butter. Dust with a few tbsp plain flour, tapping out the excess.

Whisk together 3 3/4 cups flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and pepper in a bowl.

Combine 1 1/3 cups maple syrup, oil, brown sugar and ginger water in another bowl. Whisk until blended. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, and then the hot sauce. Add flour mixture and beat together with a hand mixer on low until it's smooth. Pour into the Bundt pan.

Bake 50-55 minutes of until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold onto a cake rack. Poke holes into the cake with a long wooden skewer and brush the warm cake with the remaining 1/3 cup of maple syrup. Let cool.

To make meringue
It's best if you have a stand mixer - I don't, so this is sort of a two-person job.

Using a hand beater with whisk attachment, beat egg whites, salt and 1/4 cup sugar on medium high until soft peaks form.

Combine remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, swirling pan occasionally to dissolve sugar. Cook until syrup is dark amber - about 10 minutes. Stir in corn syrup, mixture will bubble. Cook, without stirring, until the syrup is 240F on a candy thermometer.

Two people part! One person holds the bowl and beats the egg white mixture on low speed. Second person pours the caramel into egg white mixture in a thin stream. Don't let syrup touch whisk. Once all incorporated, increase speed and beat until thick enough to spread. About 2 minutes. While meringue is still warm, spread over cake with a large spatula, making peaks and swirls. With a creme brulee torch, brown the meringue.

Serve at room temperature.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Quick Meals - BBQ Black Bean Pizza Sauce

In my mind, there are two things that make or break a pizza. The sauce and the cheese. If you get these two elements right, then the pizza will be good. The cheese is fairly self-explanatory - above all it needs to melt well. The sauce has to be the right amount of tangy, and there needs to be a decent enough amount of it. Normally I will make my own sauce out of passata, herbs, chilli and salt and pepper, but I was in the mood for something a bit different. Knowing I wanted pizza for dinner, and that we had a leftover steak from the night before that had been marinated in a Spur's Grill Basting that was going to form the meat portion of the toppings, I thought a BBQ pizza sauce was the go.

Lately, one of my favourite things to make is bean dips. Usually chick peas, white beans or a combination of the two are my go-to canned goods for dips. Just throw a tin in the food processor with a touch of oil, then some flavouring ingredients (sun-dried tomatoes, chilli and Italian herbs is a favourite) and you've got a delicious dip for pop-around visitors. I thought I'd use this as a base for my pizza sauce to ramp up the vege content of dinner without overloading the pizza with too many ingredients. The hickoryness of the sauce made me think more of Southern and Mexican style dishes, so I figured black beans was more the go.

I always have some Lebanese loaves in the freezer for use as pizza bases, but feel free to use whatever base you choose. The toppings were simple, and what I had to hand - steak, corn kernels, zucchini and jalapanenos. These are all interchangeable - remember, it's all about the sauce and the cheese. And the cheese I had was a Provolone. Most of the cheeses I use for cooking are made by Borrello Cheeses. I'm particularly fond of their romano, pecorino, provolone and bocconcini. Provolone melts perfectly and is my go-to pizza cheese.

The resulting pizza was amazing. A tangy, thick and creamy tasting sauce topped with freshly shaved provolone cheese. Add a glass of red wine, and it's the perfect cold night after a long day at work's meal. Notice the paper-lined trays - dishwasher still not replaced!

BBQ Black Bean Pizza Sauce
(makes 4 individual pizzas)
1 tin black beans
3/4 cup BBQ sauce of your choosing (I used Spur's Grill Basting, but would recommend any hickory flavoured one)
4 lebanese loaves
1 steak, cooked to your liking and thinly sliced
Half zucchini, thinly sliced
1 cup corn kernels
4 jalapenos, thinly sliced
1/2 Provolone cheese, thinly shaved

In a processor, blend the tin of black beans and BBQ sauce. Check for seasoning and consistency. It should be spreadable.

Spread a thick layer onto your lebanese loaves. Preheat oven to 180C.

Scatter over your chosen toppings, add cheese last.

Cook for 20 minutes or so until cheese is golden and melted.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

One Pot Meals - Yummy Chicken with Squash, Quinoa and Popcorn

During the week, as much as I love a quick meal, I also love an easy to clean meal. Especially since our dishwasher died the other day. I used to hate the idea of dishwashers. I thought they were a pointless waste of time and money. When we bought our house, it had a dishwasher already and in the first year or so of living there, we only ever used it about 4 times. They were when we had a big dinner party that used pretty much our whole cupboard at once. I'm not sure why, but sometime after that first year, something changed and we started using it all the time. There's only the two of us, so generally it takes 4 days or so to fill - but it's awesome. A revelation. So much of my life was being wasted at the sink! And now it's broken, and folks, you can't go back. It's impossible. So I'll be spending the next few weekends shopping for a replacement. My husband scratched up his hands cleaning the gutters, so he currently can't help with the dishes - but he does massage my shoulders while I do. A fair compromise, I think!

Until the dishwasher is replaced, I'm leaning towards cooking everything outside on the BBQ, or making one pot/pan dishes. Like this one. The flavours for this were inspired by a dish my aunt makes that she calls something technical like yummy chicken sauce. It's basically a mixture of whole-seed mustard and peanut butter, that she puts in the pan as she cooks her chicken breasts. It is yummy, so it's well named. I've changed it up a bit to allow for the extra liquid required to cook the quinoa. And added the veges so it all cooks together in the one pan. I swapped peanut butter for cashews, used a different mustard and added maple syrup. So, it's not exactly 'yummy chicken', but it is yummy chicken. I only tell you all of these substitutions, because I remember her once offering me a slice of carrot and walnut cake. Only she didn't have carrot, so she used zucchini. And she didn't have walnuts, so she used pecans. But it was still a 'carrot and walnut cake'. So I think she'd be ok with my substitutions.

And, in a fit of pure craving-based inspiration, I topped it off with fresh plain popcorn. Did you know you can cook plain kernels in a plain paper bag in the microwave? Chuck 1/4 cup or so in, fold the top down a few times so it 'seals' then put it in the microwave for 2 minutes. Done. No oil, no nothing else required. Which is perfect for this dish, because you get all your flavours from the sauce, and it remains a one pot meal. The popcorn is not necessary, but totally worth it.

One Pot Meals - Yummy Chicken with Squash, Quinoa and Popcorn

Yummy Chicken with Squash, Quinoa and Popcorn

2 tbsp rice bran oil
1 brown onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme
4 chicken thigh fillets, cut into medium-ish strips
6 yellow squash, large diced (I cut each into 8 bits)
Half a zucchini, large diced
quarter of a cabbage, thinly sliced
2/3 cup cashews, roughly chopped
4 heaped teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup quinoa (I used black, but whatever you've got)
1 1/2 cups more water
parsley, finely chopped for garnish
1 cup popped plain popcorn

Heat the oil in a tagine or deep frypan with a lid. Add the onion and garlic, cook for a few minutes until translucent. Add the thyme and mix through the onion.

Add the chicken to the pan and brown on all sides, a few minutes per side. Add the vegetables and mix through.

In a jar with a tight fitting lid, add mustard, maple syrup, 1/2 cup of water and apple cider vinegar. Shake well to mix completely. Pour into pan. Rinse out with the extra 1 1/2 cups of water, pour into pan.

Add the quinoa and cashews, then mix it all through really well. Put the lid on and allow to cook for 15 minutes or so, until the quinoa is done. Check for seasoning. If it's still a bit liquidy, leave the lid off and reduce it down for a few minutes.

Serve with a sprinkling of parsley and a handful of the plain popcorn.

One Pot Meals - Yummy Chicken with Squash, Quinoa and Popcorn