Archive for the ‘Mains’ Category

She Stuffs Shells
August 11, 2011

Sans seashore yet still simply sumptuous.

One year, maybe 1976, a well-intentioned but badly misguided bunny hid carob eggs rather than chocolate ones all around the home of a sweet-toothed little girl. The very fact that I’m telling you this now, decades later, speaks to my bitter disappointment on that Easter morning. Maybe that’s at the root of why I’m not huge on deceptive food – you know, the old “and they’ll never know it was good for them, too” routine. I don’t much care for soy or tempeh disguised as meat – tofurkey or ‘fakin’ bacon. Brown bread that looks just like white bread? People are nuts .

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m absolutely in favor of substituting some or all unhealthy ingredients or methods for good ones, but if it works and tastes great, why hide it?.  I say tout your applesauce-laden brownies! Let your baked-not-fried flag fly! And today, we’re celebrating cauliflower, spinach and whole wheat pasta. Go ahead, tell them it’s good for them. It’s splendid for them.

Makes 2 8″ x 8″ dishes, one to serve 4 and one for the freezer.
Takes about an hour, less with your mad shell stuffing skills
Preheat oven to 350°.

1 box of jumbo past shells, whole wheat if possible (box had about 38 with 4 or five broken, I used 30)
1½ – 2 cups  cauliflower (about half of a large head), divided into large florets
1½ – 2 cups spinach, finely chopped
1 300g package of ricotta (mine was full fat)
2 eggs
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
680ml tomato sauce (mine was from a tin)
500g cheddar cheese, grated
parmesan cheese, uh lots, grated

Set a huge pot of water to boil. I put the metal colander right in it and the cauliflower florets in that so I can just lift it out when they’re tender. Then salt the still boiling water and cook the shells until not quite done, drain and toss with a tiny drizzle of oil so they wont clumpify.

Mash the cauliflower, add to it the ricotta, eggs and nutmeg and blend until smooth – my immersion blender did the trick in about a minute, biceps and a whisk would do too. Now add the cheddar (ya, it’s lots) spinach and a grind or two of pepper. Filling accompli.

Use about half the tomato sauce to cover the bottoms of both baking dishes. Stuff the shells and artfully dollop with remaining sauce and sprinkle with parmesan. Toss one in the oven and the other in the freezer, covered with foil.

Bake for half an hour (45 minutes for the frozen one) and then give ’em five minutes of broiler action for gooey-ness  and crispy edges.

stoopit good

Stop with the roses and chocolates already. I know it’s just so fabulous!


Summer Fare: Melted Salmon
July 20, 2011

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There is something just so summery about this dish … all lemony and thymey. It has a sort of urban flair at a cottage pace.  The salmon is baked lowly and slowly and the fat melts away, leaving the most moist and delectable fishyflesh. Mmmm.

Serves 4 and takes +- 45 minutes, including those spent making rice and salad, socializing and playing Simon Says.

Preheat oven to 275°

Four ingredients, if you can credit that:

1 gorgeous piece of salmon, about 12 oz, skin on (and the faithful will know what the parentheses mean: please feel free to adjust the size of the fillet to accommodate your guests and their appetites, salmon steaks would be lovely too … just remember to adjust the cooking time accordingly), 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, about 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, the zest of half a lemon, and slices of the other half to serve.

Place the fish, skin side down on a small baking sheet (perhaps like the one from the toaster oven?) that has been foiled and oiled. Put the thyme and the lemon zest in a small bowl with the remaining olive oil and let them mingle for a few minutes, maybe while you put the rice on. Brush the salmon with the oil mixture and pop it in the oven.

Simple as that, and you wont believe the sweet alchemy that takes place in your oven over the next 25 – 30 minutes, depending on the thickness. Check it when you start to smell it – make a small incision and have a peek – it should still be a wee bit wet inside, but separate easily in sections.

I just know you’ll love this meal. And it doesn’t leave you feeling all gross on these steamy, sweltering evenings. I’ve made it twice already this summer; the first time we were so filled with hungry anticipation that I forgot to take a picture and the second  time I took beautiful shots despite our ravenousness, but then I lost my camera. I don’t mind making it again soon, and a pic will appear then. Not fine dining. Superfine dining.

Now I’m going to go jump in a lake … wahoo!

Best Butter Beans
June 17, 2011

Voluptuous, healthy, easy, vegetarian and special. Entertaining special, even. The white beans get so creamy and a touch decadent with the butter. Really, what could be better? Oh hush, you can’t put bacon in everything.

A wee bit of chutney right in the dish imparts a certain something too: a vague, exotic sweetness, a slightly floral quality that makes diners squint up their eyes a bit and tilt their heads – “m mm, what is that?” It’s a little bit amusing to let them guess for a while.

I use tinned beans for the convenience and spontaneity. Do as you do.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp curry, paste or powder (or more, if you’d like)
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 tsp butter
1 tbsp chutney, any kind you like (I happened to have the classic Major Grey at hand)
2 540 ml (19oz) tins butter, canellini or other white beans
A little squeeze of lemon juice
Chopped cashews (optional)

Heat the olive oil on medium heat and sautee the onion, carrot and celery until soft. Add the garlic and continue on, stirring, until everything’s really, really soft. Add the turmeric, curry and tomato paste and let it ‘cook out’, as the TV chefs put it, for another coupla minutes.

Now simply add the butter and the beans and the chutney and stir it all about until the butter has melted and coated everything and it’s all hot. If you feel your beans need a bit of loosening up give them a shot of veggie stock or water.

Just to brighten it up a little I squeeze a little lemon juice at the last stir before serving. And because I love my Mamma, I even chopped up some cashews for texture and flair. I know, fancy pants, I.

Braised Brussels Sprouts
May 31, 2011

Simplicity itself, this side dish, and oh so delicioso.

In my case, with a hunk of good bread and a bit of gooey cheese, this was lunch. Oh, it is with a pathetic yearning that I recall this meal: Ivy and her dad (those crucifer haters) were away that afternoon; the house was tidy-ish; the Saturday paper was pregnant with fluff and puzzles and I strolled to the grocery store with the virtuous posture of the recently yogafied and nothing but sprouts on my mind. Happiness.

15 minutes. Serves four normal people.

Rinse and trim the stem ends of a dozen Brussels sprouts and remove any loose leaves. Halve them and put them in a large pan or wok. Add water so that they are less than half covered (about 1/2 a cup) and a scant tablespoon of butter. Set them over medium-high heat and leave to simmer. When the water is almost all evaporated, test a sprout with the tip of a sharp knife, and add a bit more water if needed. When the water has done its job the butter is left to brown and glaze. Keep an eye on them and toss them around a bit. Some toasted sliced almonds would have been beautiful here, but I was far to gluttonous and impatient for such niceties.

Risotto, simple and easily embellished
April 4, 2011

What do you do when beloved company shows up just as you’re getting ready to go to a pirate party? The answer is not to fret and worry Matey, nor is it to pick up the daily special at the felafel joint around the corner (because, obviously, that’s Tuesday’s answer). No, enjoy the party and save your shekels, the answer is very likely sitting patiently in your very own fridge and cupboards, modestly waiting to make you shine.

Growing up, my Mum made risotto all the time. Of course this was long before we knew it as a platform for exotic seafood and truffle oil. I’m not sure the sun-dried tomato had even made it’s runway debut yet. Certainly the pine nut was not even a twinkle in our North American eye. I don’t think Mum saw it as a particularly glamorous or romantic meal at all, just a nourishing, delicious and easy weeknight meal. When Ivy and her baby friends were ready to start gumming at solid food it was risotto we mums got together and made huge batches of, very simply with some squash purée, to share and freeze. Easy, but yes, you must stand still and stir. Which is exactly why it was and is a great meal to prepare while listening to to As It Happens, catching up on the day with Mum, or to make for beloved company, because you can converse and stir and be serene all at the same time.

To make simple and easily embellished risotto:

Simple part:

Heat 6 cups of stock, in pot on a back burner.
Finely dice 1 large onion and add it to about 2 1/2 tbsp butter or olive oil in your biggest skillet over medium-high heat.
When the onion is soft, browning a bit even, stir in 2 cups of arborio rice. Push this around making sure that all the rice is coated and glistening, and here you might add some saffron (2tsp-ish), and a large grind of black pepper.
Many recipes will tell you to squander some perfectly good white wine here. I keep it in the glass myself, especially since I’m cooking for a small child.
If you wish to add any tomato paste, diced tomatoes or other purees, now’s the time.
Now begin to ladle in some hot stock, stirring all the while.
You can be quite liberal at first, adding several ladlefulls at a time, but as the rice gets closer to done ladle in less more often.
Stir, taste, repeat. The heat should be quite high, the pot bubbling away, and the whole enterprise shouldn’t take longer than twenty or twenty-five minutes.

Embellishments (aka. a good way to use leftovers):

Many many many things can be sautéed separately and piled on at the end. Like some shrimp and garlic for example. Or some asparagus and special mushrooms. Try to think about what you absolutely know goes together (like the things you had for supper last night). Or fold in any fresh herbs or chopped spinach or steamed veg just before this last bit:

When the rice is done and the company seated, add 1/4 – 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Some people claim that you can prepare risotto without cheese. They are silly and cannot be trusted. Also add a last 1/2 cup or so of stock. Risotto should want to spread out on the plate once served. It should not be suitable for repairing furniture.

Serve with a simple tossed salad and more Parm for sprinkling. Tuck your feet up and enjoy. Arr.


with our beloved Papa

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Soba Noodles with Anything Recipe
March 13, 2011

This one is a true family favorite. I make it when my mum comes, and otherwise, at least once a month. Once again folks, anything goes. I’ll give you the outline and you colour and whoever goes outside the lines the most is the winner. This can be as simple or as complex as you like. I called for chicken in the recipe, but use whatever protein you have kicking around, shrimp are excellent, pork, beef and/or tofu. This is also a perfect time to use up veggie odds and ends – anything you would normally use in a stir fry, which this is. Mine are green, white and orange just in time for St. Patties day, but that’s just because I’m a wee bit mad. Serves 2 1/2, with lots of left overs. Don’t be surprised to find members of the family standing before the fridge with a fork at all hours.

Prep time: 30 minutes top to tail, or more, depending on how fancy-pants you get.

3/4 cup frozen edamame 500 grams
(17 1/2 oz) soba noodles, approximately
2 tbs olive oil 2 tsp sesame oil
1 cup cooked chicken, diced or shredded
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated finely
2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp water
1 large carrot, chopped
1 stalk broccoli, divided into small florets
1/2 cup chicken or veggie stock
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Boil up a very large pot of water. I immerse the edamame into the water in my metal colander or you can just dump them in and then take them off the heat and fish them out with a wire spider or slotted spoon when they’re done. Which is only a couple of minutes after they hit the water – if they are overdone they get mushy and gross – just think of bringing them from frozen to warm or, best idea (as always) TASTE them! Set aside.

Now add the soba to the boiling water. Again, you really don’t want to overcook them. So follow package directions and test them often. I don’t know if the ‘sticks to the ceiling’ test works for buckwheat pasta, but it’s fun for the kids. You however, must test with your teeth – al dente!

As soon as they are done drain them and rinse them with cold, cold water. Get those little fingers in there.

If you want to toast the sesame seeds, now’s the time, in a dry frying pan and keep them moving over medium heat until lightly browned.

In a wok or similar big pan, get the two oils good and hot. Toss in the chicken to brown, then remove and set aside. Now put the garlic and ginger in and once you can smell them, put in the soy sauce, water and the veggies. Stir-fry for a few moments before adding in the edamame and the chicken. When everything’s all nice and hot add in the stock and the soba. Use a couple of forks or spaghetti tongs to get everything all mixed together and piping hot. Squeeze in your lime juice and serve, garnished with sesame seeds.

Be sure to put the Sri racha (aka Rooster Sauce) or other hot sauce on the table (along with some lime wedges and chopped cilantro, you fancy pants) and enjoy.

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Beef Stew
March 9, 2011

Beef Stew 9am

Hooray for ubiquitous but delicious BEEF STEW!

A cold rainy Early March supper.*

Now, some might feel it’s a little dreary to be standing over a crock pot with your hands full of stewing beef at 9:00 in the morning.

It is, a bit.

But I’ll guarendamntee you, when you get in from those slushy streets, as you peel off those wet-frozen woolly mittens and wipe the sleet from your ear, prepare for a bear hug. When you smell this stew you will feel happy and self satisfied. And it’s the easiest meal. Ivy wasn’t actually a part of this one – she took the day off. And really, so did I. I didn’t even buy anything special. It’s just some cubed chuck I had in the in the freezer, some pantry staples and somewhere else we wanted to be today. Oh, there’s organic beer in there too. And your inspired addition(s) too, of course. Beef Stew Recipe

Presto Chango (well, if by presto we mean nine hours later)

So, Go out and chuck some epic snowballs, dodge falling icicles, get hither and yon, do whatever today and have this little beauty waiting for you at home:  a big pot of steamy, yummy love.

*Reminds me of a that Steven Wright joke: I went to a restaurant that serves breakfast any time. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.

Beef Stew Recipe

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Beef Stew How To
March 8, 2011

Normally I would dredge the beef in a bit of seasoned flour and brown it, but the interesting aromas that waft through the halls around here notwithstanding, I didn’t think it would be very neighborly to smoke up the hallways with eau de meat before 9 am. I’m thoughtful that way, I guess.

So, no dredging, but this stew was excellent; the meat tender and delicious and the grated potato near the end does the thickening that the flour would have otherwise.

The three of us had this for supper over buttered egg noodles and we have half in the freezer.

So into the slow cooker:
1 – 1/2 lbs (500g) cubed beef
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large tin plum tomatoes, juice and all, broken up a bit
1 cup beef or veggie stock, water or dark beer
5 or six dashes each of worshestershire sauce and hot sauce
1 scant tbsp. dried thyme
the same of oregano
and 3 or 4 bay leaves (best if you can use a combination of dried and fresh herbs, but if you’re doing so, wait and put the fresh in towards the end)
a good grind of pepper

I left the cooker on low and we went out for the day:


When we got back all I did was was taste and correct the seasonings, and grated in 1 peeled potato.

And that’s it. It was warm and comforting and delicious.

Easy as pie. Easier.

Beef stew story post

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