Bison Tail Ragu Bolognese

Bison, or oftentimes called buffalo, have roamed the central and northern parts of North America for centuries. Hunted to near extinction by European settlers in much of America, meanwhile, in Canada, bison have large pockets of growing wild populations. Many ranchers in Canada also opt to raise bison instead of beef cattle. The meat is milder, slightly sweeter and much leaner.

Like any animal, there are fattier components. My favourite fatty part of most animals are the tails and bone marrow. These parts are only best prepared in a stewing or braising method. One of the best ways to take advantage of this fattiness is to braise them as a part of a meaty tomato sauce or ragu bolognese.

Traditional ragu bolognese is a slow simmered sauce oftentimes with beef or pork, but if you go to different regions in Italy, the meat can vary. Sometimes boar, sometimes lamb, it can depend on what is nearby. Also common is a vegetable component of onion, celery, carrots and garlic along with tomato and wine. I didn’t go with a wine component to keep my ingredients relatively simple. The time will be expended on a short roasting time and waiting for a slow cooker. Overall, it’s largely hands-free, but all wonderful things take time, so I think the time is worth it 🙂

Bison Tail Ragu Bolognese:

1 bison tail (or oxtail) (You could get your butcher to cut it into pieces but I find that the tail will break down in the slow cooker anyways, so just curl it in there and it’ll be fine)

450g/1 lb ground bison or beef

1-1/2 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium onions)

1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

2 tsp cold pressed canola oil

1-750mL can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand

1-130mL can tomato paste

750mL water

3 Tbsp dried oregano

5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1-1/2 tsp salt

   Preheat oven to 200C/425F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Line a 24cm/8″ square baking pan with foil. Set aside.

   On the large baking sheet, crumble the ground bison (or beef) in a single layer. In the baking pan, add the onions, celery and carrot. Place the tail on top and drizzle with the oil.

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   Roast the baking pan with the tail and veggies for 20 minutes or until the tail is deeply golden.

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Roast the ground meat for 10 minutes until golden. Transfer both the roasted ground meat pan and the roasted tail pan with all of the veggies to a slow cooker. Add the hand crushed canned tomatoes, tomato paste, water, oregano, garlic and salt. Turn on the slow cooker to simmer for 10 hours. Remove the bones with tongs and serve with tagliatelle or fettuccine. It is also a great component in lasagna which it will be this week. Stay tuned for the lasagna assembly tomorrow!

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Ginger Beef and Broccoli

Growing up, my family didn’t eat in restaurants very much. Maybe once or twice a year we’d go out for Chinese food. This made it more of an event. We still enjoyed our meal as a family, but going to eat something exotic, at least to a kid who ate largely a modified Canadian diet heavy on Hungarian influence, was considered a treat.

Amidst the vast selection of meat dishes, we always veered to dishes with a lot of vegetables too. Eating our veggies was never an issue in our household growing up. My dad’s large vegetable garden probably had something to do with that. One of my favourites was always a beef and broccoli dish. Some places did it with a pungent amount of ginger. And since I was a kid brought up on bold flavours like garlic and chillis, ginger wasn’t a shock to my tastebuds. Tonight, I made an intense version of my own, immediately transporting my brain to a simpler time, a time of comfort. A time where a treat came in the form of quick stir-fried beef and broccoli.

Ginger Beef and Broccoli

1-225g/8 oz beef striploin steak, thinly sliced, fat removed

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

2 sweet bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, thinly sliced

2-1/2 cups broccoli florets

1/4 cup soy sauce

3 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1/4 cup water, for the marinade + 1/4 cup water, for simmering

1/4 cup water + 2 tsp potato starch

1 tsp cold pressed canola oil

   In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic and 1/4 cup water. Add the beef slices and marinade for 15-20 minutes.

   Preheat a wok over high heat. Add the oil and pull the beef from the marinade, draining as much moisture away as possible. Sear the meat on both sides for 45-60 seconds. Remove from the wok and add the onions and peppers. Add 1/4 cup water and simmer for 3-4 minutes until most of the water has evaporated. Add the marinade and simmer for another 3-4 minutes to reduce the liquid by half. Add the broccoli and simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Return the beef to the wok, whisk together the water and potato starch and add to the wok. Simmer for 3-4 minutes until the liquid thickens into a sauce. Serve immediately with rice. Serves 2.

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Steak and Potato Pizza with Beer Braised Mushrooms

Every Saturday has been pizza night for as long as I can remember. Yes, the summer gets hot and it may get missed, but for the most part, Saturday and homemade pizza are inexorably linked. It was one of the first things I learned to make as a kid. I also remember the times my dad would do weekend barbecues, marinating his tough cuts of steak for days and transforming them into tender treats. Today I wanted to combine those two memories into one. Steak and Potato Pizza.

Firstly, incorporating potato into a pizza can be tricky. I’ve had pizza places try mashed potato spread on the crust or thin slices of potato that get inedibly crisp and chewy. Neither worked for me. I decided to incorporate actual mashed potato into the dough itself. It adds tenderness, subtle potato flavour and body to the crust. And on a crisp autumn day, a hearty addition to pizza night is welcome.

Next, the steak. Instead of my dad’s endless marinade that made a wonderful steak, I opted for a striploin with a flavourful spice rub, grilled rare before going on the pizza since it would cook more in the oven.

Finally, any steak benefits from a nice mushroom topping of some kind and a good beer. I modified another recipe from my dad for Paprika Mushrooms. Basically, sear some chopped mushrooms, sprinkle them with paprika and simmer in enough liquid to cover. Mostly, it’s just water, but this time, I simmered it in a locally produced ale.

Here’s to the best of any weekend. Steak, potatoes, pizza and beer. Pardon me while I have a masculine moment and grunt unintelligibly. Cheers!

Steak and Potato Pizza with Beer Braised Mushrooms

For the Potato Dough:

1 medium potato, peeled and chopped

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp milk

5 cups Red Fife flour (Red Fife is a heritage variety of wheat that is characterized by its higher protein content suitable for breads. If you can’t find it, try a whole grain bread flour)

1 tsp salt

1-3/4 cup warm water

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1 Tbsp yeast

   In a small pot, add the potatoes, enough water to cover and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 7-10 minutes, until tender. Drain and mash the potatoes, add the butter and milk and mash further until smooth and creamy.

   In a large bowl, add the flour. Make a depression in the centre of the flour, creating a well for the wet ingredients. Sprinkle the other teaspoon of salt around the edge of the dry ingredients. Add the creamed potatoes into the well with the water, maple syrup and yeast. Lightly stir together the wet ingredients and allow to sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast gets bubbly. Stir together further until a dough starts to come together. Dump the dough and residual flour from the bowl on the counter and knead for a further 10 minutes or until the dough is soft and only slightly sticky (the maple syrup will have a lingering stickiness so don’t worry). Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for an hour. While the dough is rising proceed with the other components.

For the Beer Braised Mushrooms:

2 cups mushrooms, chopped coarsely

2 tsp cold pressed canola oil

1 tsp butter

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika

1/2 cup brown ale (just find a place for the rest of the bottle. Oh, I don’t know, drink it, maybe?) 😉

   In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms in a single layer (you may need to do this in batches). Sear all sides of the mushrooms until deeply golden brown. Add the red onions and sauté for a further 3-4 minutes to soften the onions. Sprinkle with paprika, toss to coat all of the mushrooms and onions and immediately add the ale. Simmer and stir occasionally until the ale is absorbed and reduces into a thick sauce around the mushrooms. Set aside to cool.

For the Spice Rubbed Grilled Steak:

1 225g/8 oz beef striploin steak

2 tsp Creole Spice Mix (or your favourite Cajun seasoning)

   Preheat a grill to high (I just used my indoor grill. For an outdoor one, just use medium high heat. It runs hotter than an indoor grill). Brush the grill with oil and grill the steak for 3-4 minutes per side to sear and cook the steak to a rare doneness. Set aside to rest.

For the pizza:

1/3 of the Prepared Potato Dough (divide the rest into buns, allow them to rise for an hour and bake for 10-12 minutes in the same oven after making the pizza)

Prepared Beer Braised Mushrooms

Prepared Spice Rubbed Grilled Steak, thinly sliced

6 Tbsp of your favourite pizza sauce (I just whisk together 1-180mL can tomato paste, 150mL water, 1 Tbsp soy sauce and 2 Tbsp fresh oregano)

75g/3 oz gruyere cheese, grated

75g/3 oz herb and garlic flavoured gouda cheese, grated (or another flavoured cheese of your choice)

   Preheat oven to 190C/375F.

   Take a baking sheet, invert it so the bottom is facing up. Drizzle with 1/2 tsp oil and spread the surface completely with it. It shouldn’t be runny with oil, just a light film. Divide the dough in half and stretch each into rough 24cm/8″ circles. Set them on the prepared, inverted baking sheet. Spread each with pizza sauce, a sprinkling of the herb and garlic gouda cheese, the Beer Braised Mushrooms and evenly spread out some of the sliced Spice Rubbed Grilled Steak. Finish with a light sprinkling of grated gruyere and bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes until the bottom and edges are golden. Makes 2-24cm/8″ pizzas with extra dough for buns (or just triple the recipe for all of the toppings and make 6 pizzas.

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Sombre Days and Broccoli Potage

Three years ago, today, my mom saw her last sunrise. My brother was talking to her on the phone while she was in the hospital two time zones away. She drifted away moments after talking to him. I find this day difficult no matter how much I try to find a way to deal with the loss. Those who say it gets easier, I’m not even sure what to say. It doesn’t. A moment in time hits you in a way that isn’t rational. A place has extra special meaning.

In the weeks that passed after my mom’s passing three years ago, I had a trip planned to see her. I still went, but instead of a pleasure trip to enjoy the Ottawa/Hull region with my mom, it was time spent with her partner. Consoling the inconsolable, we shared stories, pictures, emotions. Throat-constricting stretches of silence interspersed with sobs.

My mom was the one, like me, who did the bulk of the cooking at home. It left her partner with another void besides her kindness she shared through her life. He didn’t cook very much and missed the meals she shared. Dishes that I also had growing up or dishes from Quebec that he never learned from his own family, but I knew how to do, so I spent some of that time with him, showing him how to cook many of his favourite dishes. One of them was a Broccoli Potage. A simple creamy soup with potato, milk and whatever vegetable you want to include, in this case broccoli.

Broccoli Potage

1 tsp cold pressed canola oil

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

3-4 stalks celery, chopped

4 cups broccoli florets, plus their accompanying stalks, chopped (measure the 4 cups of florets only, the stalks are additional)

2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if vegetarian)

4 cups milk (if you don’t use cow’s milk, don’t substitute with almond/soy/rice milk, etc. It will split if heated and make a mess. Just use more vegetable stock or water)

3 or 4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups total)

1-1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup cream cheese, to garnish, optional

   In a large pot over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, celery and broccoli stalks. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to soften. Add the chicken stock, milk, broccoli florets, potatoes and salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft. Purée with a hand blender (or in batches in a blender/food processor) until smooth. Serve in a bowl with a spoon of cream cheese, if using. Serves 4-6. It also freezes well, so it makes a quick accompaniment to dinner on a whim.

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Sausage Eggs Benedict with Duck Fat Biscuits and Garlic Oil-Thyme Hollandaise

With a week that’s dragged on a little longer than I’d like, my feet start dragging the same way. I look closer and closer to the weekend where brunches are an exercise in relaxation. Sometimes simple, like a broccoli-cheese omelette, others, more complex like doing eggs benedict where you make almost every component yourself.

This past weekend was a day where I happily lingered over the more complex brunch idea. I had some wonderful fresh chicken-rosemary sausages from a local organic farm and wanted to form them into patties for an eggs benedict idea. So besides this bit of help, and not laying eggs myself (that would be painful and beyond the scope of my human masculinity), I set out to make the rest.

The foundation was a biscuit, not an English muffin, like the traditional. This wasn’t any ordinary biscuit. I had some duck fat in the freezer and knew they would make the most over-the-top rich biscuits ever. Putting it into my favourite buttermilk biscuit recipe just made it all the better.

Along with the biscuit, poached egg and sausage patty, I went about devising a hollandaise sauce that would be a little different, so I went with a combination of homemade garlic oil and cold pressed canola oil that I use all the time instead of the traditional melted butter. It worked beautifully.

By going through step by step in a reasonable order, being prepared along the way, what could appear to be foolishly complex, becomes a relaxing moment to relish in the joy of cooking something beautiful.

Sausage Eggs Benedict with Duck Fat Biscuits and Garlic Oil-Thyme Hollandaise

For the Duck Fat Biscuits:

1 cup spelt flour

1 cup Park wheat flour (or bread flour)

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup frozen duck fat (I like to freeze my duck fat, or butter for that matter, in 1/2 cup portions specifically for biscuit baking)

3/4-7/8 cup (180-200mL) buttermilk

   Preheat oven to 200C/425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

   In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a coarse grater, grate the frozen duck fat into the dry ingredients. Work together with your fingertips to incorporate the grated duck fat quickly until the entire mixture is like coarse pebbles. Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and stir together with a wooden spoon until it comes together. Some weather makes the mixture a little drier on a given day and I say to have an extra tablespoon or two of buttermilk on hand to add in case this happens.

   Turn the dough on to the counter and knead very gently to bring together into a soft dough. Press out the dough into a rough rectangle about 2cm/1″ thick. Cut out squares with a knife (or use biscuit cutters, but that leads to wasted edge bits of dough, so I just tend to cut). Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven on the lower rack for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Take out of the oven and allow to cool on the pan while preparing the other components. Makes 8 biscuits.

For the Sausage Patties:

450g/1 lb chicken-rosemary sausages (or your favourite breakfast sausage meat. I bought links and squeezed them out of the casings but if you can get it already free of the casings that’s great too)

1 tsp cold pressed canola oil

   Divide the sausage meat into 4 equal sized balls. Press each ball of sausage meat into a patty.

   Preheat a large skillet or griddle over medium high heat, add the oil and fry the sausage patties for 3-4 minutes per side until golden on each side. Turn off the oven from baking biscuits, transfer the browned sausages to a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the oven. The residual heat from the oven will keep the sausage warm while preparing the rest of the components.

For the Garlic Oil-Thyme Hollandaise:

3 egg yolks

2 Tbsp vinegar

1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup garlic oil

1/2 cup cold pressed canola oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

   Combine the garlic oil and cold pressed canola oil in a metal bowl and set near the burner on the stove you are using to keep warm. Keep a ladle in it for adding purposes.

   In a stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water over medium heat, add the egg yolks, vinegar and thyme. Whisk until the mixture starts to thicken. Gradually ladle in the warm oil mixture and whisk continuously to make a smooth sauce. If the sauce starts to become too thick add a tablespoon or two of water and take the bowl off of the heat, whisking more to make the mixture smooth. Set aside on a warm part of the stove (not a burner or pot of simmering water) while poaching the eggs.

For the poached eggs and serving:

4 large eggs

   In a medium pot, bring 1L/4 cups water to a bare simmer over medium low heat. Add a teaspoon of vinegar. Crack one egg into a small bowl and ease the egg into the barely simmering water along the edge of the pot. Keep a slotted spoon beneath the egg as you lower it into the water. Gather up the spreading egg white as best as you can, easing it over the yolk. There will be some egg white loss while poaching so don’t worry. Ease the slotted spoon beneath the yolk, lifting the egg as it poaches gently moving in an up and down motion. Pull it free from the water periodically and jiggle it slightly to assess the degree of doneness you’d like. I find about two and a half to three minutes of poaching is cooked well enough to hold the yolk and still have that “gooey” factor when you break into it. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Set each egg as it finishes poaching on top of a prepared sausage that’s on a split biscuit. Things will go quickly from here so don’t worry about the sausage getting cold.

   When all of the eggs are done, spoon over some of the prepared Garlic Oil-Thyme Hollandaise. Serve immediately. Serves 4 with leftover biscuits for breakfast the next day 😉

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Sloppy Joes and Failure

Sometimes, a dinner plan doesn’t always work out.

I was preparing what I thought was going to be a delicious fish dinner, but between the methods I was using and ingredients, it became one chaotic failure after another.

I was initially angry. Angry at the mess that ensued. Angry at the lack of options to fix it. Angry at myself for letting it happen.

Life isn’t perfect. I want to strive every day for perfection, but it doesn’t always work that way.

After my moments of anger, I disposed of the “evidence” and went to “Plan B.” That involves my day-to-day planning. I always have a variety of homemade prepared foods in my freezer: soups, stews, chilis, or in what tonight became, meatballs in sauce.

When you simmer meatballs a little extra, they get a little mushy in a good way. That mushy texture is perfect for mashing. I spread that “meatball mash” on some buns with a bit of cheese and broiled it.

Suddenly, dinner is on the table and that’s what it comes down to: being prepared.

Sometimes, being a Boy Scout as a kid pays off 😉

Sloppy Joes a la Meatballs:

2 cups leftover meatballs in tomato sauce (I used my recipe for Roast Bison Meatballs here)
75g/3 oz aged cheddar cheese, finely grated
4 small whole wheat buns (when I don’t bake my buns, I like them from one of my neighbourhood bakeries, Dutch Delicious)

Preheat the broiler on high and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add the meatballs and sauce to a small pot and heat over medium high heat. When it comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Mash the meatballs with a fork after taking them off the heat.
Spread the halved buns on the prepared baking sheet. Spread the meatball mash on each bun half and top with a tablespoon or so of sauce. Sprinkle a bit of grated cheese on top. Repeat with remaining buns, meatball mash and cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese has melted and gone slightly brown along the edges. Serves 2.

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Honey Garlic Shrimp Cocktail with Roasted Red Pepper Cocktail Sauce

I used to work in a fish shop. During that time, I made all kinds of things: crab cakes, chowders, salmon burgers, fish pies and spice mixes. The one thing that I never got to in my tenure there was to make cocktail sauce. The idea of a roasted red pepper cocktail sauce has always lingered at the back of my mind as an option. Today, I finally did it.

Cocktail sauce is basically nothing more than a spicy ketchup. The traditional is a tomato base spiced up with horseradish. In my version, since it is a pepper base, I thought spicing it up with hot paprika would be appropriate.

The “ketchup-like” idea in cocktail sauce can be modified in any number of ways: swapping out the tomato with red pepper like I did in this or other vegetables like asparagus or grean peas for something totally different. You could also modify how it is sweetened. The normal sugar can be swapped with honey, maple syrup or other natural sweetener. Using an artificial sweetener wouldn’t work very well because the chemistry of the sugars themselves affects texture and you’d need to rethink the recipe entirely to accommodate it.

As for the shrimp today, I wanted to add more honey to the outside and nothing goes with honey like garlic. It made it like a shrimp-y chicken wing night at the local pub…without the guy screaming about football in your face haha. Enjoy!

Honey Garlic Shrimp Cocktail with Roasted Red Pepper Cocktail Sauce

For the Roasted Red Pepper Cocktail Sauce:

2 sweet red bell peppers

3-4 Tbsp honey (depending on how sweet you like it, texturally the recipe will be fine either way)

1/4 cup vinegar

1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

1/4-1/2 tsp hot Hungarian paprika (depending on how spicy you like it)

1/2 tsp salt

   Preheat the oven to 190C/425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

   Place the peppers on the prepared baking sheet and roast for 30-35 minutes or until blackened on all sides. Remove from the oven, transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 15-20 minutes to steam the skin away.

   Peel away the skin, remove the stem and seeds and coarsely tear the peppers into pieces. Transfer to a blender and add the vinegar. Purée until smooth. Transfer the purée to a small pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the honey, nutmeg, paprika and salt and stir continuously for 15-20 minutes or until thick like a ketchup. Set aside to cool.

For the Honey Garlic Shrimp:

2 tsp cold pressed canola oil

450g/1 lb shrimp (I used 16-20 or “jumbo” shrimp), tails kept on

2 Tbsp honey

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

   In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp in a single layer. Cook without moving the shrimp for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp, add the garlic and honey and simmer for another 2 minutes, flipping the shrimp periodically to coat them in the honey-garlic glaze. Set aside.

To serve:

   On two plates, fan out half of the prepared Honey Garlic Shrimp on each. Spoon half of the Roasted Red Pepper Cocktail Sauce into small serving bowls and place in the centre of each plate. Serves 2.

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Jambalaya Salad

In the finale to my Summer of Salads adventure, I thought some kind of celebration was in order. Since a cake salad would be rather silly (even though I did spend some time thinking of a possibility haha), I decided to look at a perpetually celebratory region: Louisiana. One of the signature dishes of Louisiana, jambalaya, lends itself wonderfully to the “salad treatment.”

Traditionally, jambalaya has sausage and chicken (or a bunch of other meats if you go into rural regions), the “holy trinity” of vegetables: onions, celery and bell peppers, as well as shrimp and rice.

I could have done a rice salad, but I have been toying with the idea of making crispy croutons out of compressed rice for awhile. Compressed rice, or Nasi Impit in Malaysia, is made by cooking rice in so much water that it goes mushy and is easily mashed. The mash is then pressed in a mould and chilled to set. It is then cut into cubes and served alongside traditional dishes like rendang (a spicy beef coconut stew) or with satay skewers and spicy peanut sauce.

Today, the crouton accents a mixture of onion, bell pepper and celery leaves, along with shredded chicken, julienne sausage and quick cooked shrimp. The dressing was a simple vinaigrette spiked with a homemade Creole spice and garlic oil.

Jambalaya Salad:

For the Compressed Rice:

2 cups water

1/2 cup long grain rice

5 or 6 fresh sage leaves

1/2 tsp salt

   In a small pot, add the water, rice, sage and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice is very tender and most of the water is absorbed (about 12-15 minutes). Remove the sage leaves and discard. Transfer the cooked rice to a food processor and pulse a few times to purée with chunks remaining. Place the purée into a small container lined with cheesecloth (muslin), top with another sheet of cheesecloth, pressing down to make an even, flat top and chill in a refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Cut 1/4 of it into 2cm/1″ cubes and set aside. Reserve the rest for another use, like dipping in hot sauce as a snack. Yum!…or wait a few days, I have another idea in mind. I do love to create with leftovers 😉

For the Creole Vinaigrette:

1/4 tsp flax seeds

2 Tbsp Creole Spice Mix (recipe below or use a commercial cajun seasoning if you like, just leave out the salt in this vinaigrette recipe if you do)

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1/4 cup garlic oil (or regular cold pressed canola oil)

1/2 tsp salt

   In a blender or food processor, grind the flax seeds into a powder. Add the vinegar and oil and purée to combine. Add the Creole Spice Mix and salt and stir to combine. Set aside.

For the Creole Spice Mix:

2 Tbsp garlic powder

2 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika

1 Tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp celery seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

2 Tbsp mild chili powder

2 Tbsp dry oregano leaves

1 tsp salt

   In a spice grinder, grind the cumin, mustard, celery seeds and black peppercorns. Add to a large bowl and add the garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, salt and oregano. Stir until uniformly combined. Keep in an airtight container for up to a month. It’s a great all purpose spice mix, but is especially good in Creole/Cajun style dishes.

For the salad:

1 cup cooked chicken, shredded

80g/3 oz garlic sausage, cut into strips

1 sweet bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 cup red onion, sliced

1/4 cup celery leaves (or fresh lovage leaves)

150g/6 oz shrimp (I used a 16-20 size, often called “jumbo shrimp”), tails removed, deveined and sliced in half along its length

Reserved Creole Vinaigrette

Reserved Compressed Rice cubes

   In a large bowl, combine the chicken, sausage, bell pepper, onion, celery leaves and Creole Vinaigrette. Allow to marinate in the vinaigrette for at least 10 minutes.

   In a medium skillet over medium high heat, add 1 tsp cold pressed canola oil and fry the compressed rice cubes until golden on all sides (about 3-4 minutes total). Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

   In the same skillet, add the shrimp and cook until lightly pink on both sides (about 2-3 minutes). Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

   Add the cooked shrimp to the marinating veggies, chicken and sausage. Toss with your fingers to combine. Divide the mixture over two plates and scatter some of the crispy compressed rice “croutons” over the top of each salad. Serves 2.

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Thank you to everyone for reading my Summer of Salads adventure. It’s been mostly fun with only a bit of stress on the really hot days of summer. It was a challenge to my creativity at times, but I just focused on the fact that so many fruits and veggies came into season at different points in the summer season that the stress got less and less as I went along.

I also recently surpassed the 100 follower mark on my blog. That’s amazing to me and I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read what I share and comment in one way or another. Thanks again for sharing this space with me. I’ll be sharing new adventures on this blog with occasional themes for stretches of time again. Stay tuned for more everyday cooking fun! 🙂

Carrot Yellow Bean Salad with Garlic Celery Dressing

While out enjoying the weather today, a true representation of the summer season as it winds down, I knew today’s salad needed to be simple and cooling. With temperatures in the upper 20s Celsius (near 80F), a salad that closer represented a simple crudité platter was in order. Plus, I was doing a more elaborate brunch just for fun with homemade biscuits and hollandaise (recipes and blog to come later this week).

I knew that I wanted to use some of that amazing garlic-infused oil that I made yesterday while making confit garlic (recipe here). The complimentary flavour to the garlic today was blanched celery leaves because their deep savoury nature balanced out the sweet, mild heat of the garlic oil. I also had some yellow beans that were getting close to the end of their days, so I knew they’d be on the list too. Oftentimes, the best, simplest salads are from cleaning out the fridge! Along with some carrots, the salad was set!

Carrot Yellow Bean Salad with Garlic Celery Dressing

For the Steamed Carrots and Yellow Beans:

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm (1/2″) x 6cm (2-1/2″) sticks

18-20 yellow beans, tips and tails removed

   In a steamer over a pot of boiling water, add the carrot sticks and yellow beans. Cover the steamer pot and steam for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the steamer and plunge into an ice bath to cool completely.

For the Garlic Celery Dressing:

2 Tbsp celery leaves (or fresh lovage), blanched in the boiling water after steaming the vegetables above, then chilled in the ice bath with the vegetables.

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 Tbsp garlic oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

   In a food processor, add the blanched and cooled celery leaves, rice vinegar, garlic oil, salt and pepper. Purée until smooth. The dressing may taste a little over the top on its own, but it needs an extra punch of flavour to it to add more to the relatively mildly flavoured beans and carrots.

For the salad:

Reserved Steamed Carrots and Yellow Beans

Reserved Garlic Celery Dressing

   Divide the Steamed Carrots and Yellow Beans over two plates. Drizzle both liberally with the Garlic Celery Dressing. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

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Maple Thyme Roasted Apple Waldorf Salad with Confit Garlic Yogurt Dressing

When I first started out doing my Summer of Salads series back in June, I knew I wanted to do a version of a Waldorf salad: the classic salad created in New York City that usually consists of apple, celery and walnuts with a mayonnaise dressing. There have been many additions over the years: blue cheese, chicken, grapes, variants on the dressing. So once grapes came into season, I knew the time for me to do my own version was now.

Firstly, I wanted to augment the flavour of the apple component by pan roasting it with maple and fresh thyme to boost both the sweetness and the earthiness. The deep savoury flavour of thyme, in my mind, made the need for celery superfluous, so I omitted it in my salad.

Secondly, I wanted to include the chicken because I like to make a salad a meal and the heartiness of chicken always sends a salad from merely a starter or side into a full meal.

Thirdly, the grape idea with chicken has become an almost classic combination in itself. There was a beautiful variety of green grapes at the market last week, so I’ve been keeping some aside with the intent for part of it to make it into a salad.

Finally, I wanted a lighter option for the dressing rather than the traditional mayonnaise, so I opted to use yogurt. Dressing a salad in a one-dimensional item like yogurt, although delicious on its own, seemed inadequate. I wanted another element of flavour with it. I was reading about a garlic festival in Toronto earlier today (see article here) and one of the chef’s gave a recipe for confit garlic. Basically, a slow simmering of garlic cloves in oil to soften them.

I went with that idea with a slight modification to also infuse the oil (for a later use). I buy my oil from a local producer of cold pressed canola, flax and hemp oils. While talking to the owner awhile back, I was talking about infusions in oil. I asked about how warm he lets the oil get while pressing. Each seed is different so there’s three different answers for his oil seeds. For canola, he never goes over 40C/105F. And for infusions, he never went over 100C/220F. So, of course, while making today’s confit garlic, I heated the oil with a thermometer to monitor temperature:

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I’ll get into more detail below with the recipe. In the meantime, if you want to try the oil from Mighty Trio Organics, it’s awesome. And the family behind it are even better. Check out their oils and great information on how to order online too here.

Maple Thyme Roasted Apple Waldorf Salad with Confit Garlic Yogurt Dressing

For the Confit Garlic Yogurt Dressing:

4 cloves garlic

Cold pressed canola oil to cover the garlic in a small pot (about 1 cup/250 mL)

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

   In a small pot, add the garlic cloves and oil. Bring to the barest simmer over low heat. When the temperature reaches above 85C/190F, ensure that the oil doesn’t heat anymore by turning the heat to low and remove the pot partly from the heat, if necessary. Allow to gently simmer for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and allow the garlic to steep in the oil. Remove the confit garlic and set aside. Reserve the garlic infused oil for another use.

   To make the dressing, add the confit garlic to a small bowl. Mash them with a fork until relatively smooth. Add the yogurt, salt and pepper and stir together to combine. Allow to sit for at least 20-30 minutes while preparing the Maple Thyme Roasted Apples.

For the Maple Thyme Roasted Apples:

1 tsp cold pressed canola oil

1 apple, cored, cut into rough 2cm/1″ chunks

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

2 Tbsp maple syrup

   In a medium skillet over medium high heat, add the oil. When the oil is smouldering, add the apples and sauté for 3-4 minutes until slightly softened but still holding shape. Add the thyme and maple syrup. Stir to coat the apples and sauté for a further 2-3 minutes to glaze the apples. Take off the heat, transfer to a bowl to cool and set aside.

For the salad:

6 cups green leaf lettuce, roughly torn

2/3 cup/125 mL fresh green grapes

3 Tbsp hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup/60 mL cooked chicken (any leftover chicken is fine), shredded

Reserved Maple Thyme Roasted Apples

Reserved Confit Garlic Yogurt Dressing

   In a medium bowl, combine the lettuce with the Confit Garlic Yogurt Dressing. Divide the dressed lettuce over three plates. Scatter grapes and shredded chicken around the greens on all three plates. Add the Maple Thyme Roasted Apple chunks over the top with a few pinches of chopped hazelnuts. Serve immediately. Serves 3.

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