Week of April 06, 2015

I am so thankful to have had a long weekend to breathe. As may have been apparent from my very succinct post last week, my level of busy-ness has been extreme. Having an extra day of weekend has truly been a blessing, and we made the most of it. We slept in Friday, Saturday and today, did minimal work, and yesterday we took a random day-trip: we just hopped on the Go-Train, got off a few kilometers west of here and explored the adorable little town of Oakville.

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I spent most of today preparing our meals for the week, my most favorite wind-down activity. Plus, bonus: I was able to have the windows open (yay, spring!) which is always nice because our super-sunny kitchen gets crazy hot in the afternoon.


 Monday – Smoked beets and fish

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I smoked the beets for this recipe this afternoon. I have to say, it was intense. Our whole apartment got really smoky, which I was worried about at first – but the recipe indeed suggests the use of an “exhaust fan”. Eek. Also, it’s a very involved recipe (originally, from Plenty More); as you can see, I stopped halfway through and will omit the nuts and yogurt. Not sure if I will be making this again, but it was a fun experiment for today. I will serve with a piece of white fish.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • shaved peel of 1 lemon
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 12 medium beets, skin on (I only had 3…)
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra for drizzling
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup macadamia nuts
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 520 degrees. Line a large sauté pan or wok with two large sheets of tin foil, leaving the edges generously overhanging the sides. Add the rice, lemon peel and thyme, and stir through two tablespoons of water. Sit the beets on top of the rice and seal the pan with a large lid. Draw up the tin foil and fold it back over the lid, to completely seal the beets and lid in foil; any gaps will hamper the smoking process.
  2. Put the pan over a very high flame on the stove top and, once you see a little bit of smoke coming through – after three or four minutes – leave to smoke for exactly eight minutes, then remove from the heat. (Note – It will get VERY smoky.)
  3. Discard the rice, lemon peel and thyme, transfer the beets to a baking tray and roast in the hot oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a sharp knife goes in easily. Remove, set aside to cool, then peel off the charred skin.
  4. Cut the beets into 2mm-thick slices and put them in a large bowl with the maple syrup, a tablespoon of olive oil, and some salt and pepper to taste. Mix together and set aside. (Note – I got lazy and stopped here; I think the smoky, sweet beets will be delicious as is.)
  5. Turn down the oven to 325 degrees. Put the nuts on a roasting tray, bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Meanwhile, line another tray with parchment paper. Put the sugar in a small saucepan and cook on a gentle heat; don’t stir as the sugar melts and starts to caramelize and turn golden. Carefully add the nuts, and stir gently to coat. Pour out the sticky nuts on to the lined tray, leave to cool, then chop and set aside. Mix the yogurt with the remaining olive oil and set aside.
  6. Spread out the beetroot slices on a large platter, drizzle with yogurt, sprinkle the chopped nuts on top and finish with the chili flakes, coriander and a final dribble of oil.

  Tuesday – Pollo fajitas

Photo cred: Cantina Mariachi
Photo cred: Cantina Mariachi

I found this recipe eight years ago when I first began cooking for myself. It wowed me then and it continues to wow me now. It’s incredibly easy and quick, and the tasty kick never disappoints.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into strips
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, chili powder, garlic and hot pepper sauce. Place chicken in sauce, and turn once to coat. Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for several hours.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add chicken strips to the pan, and saute for 5 minutes. Add the onion and green pepper, and saute another 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and sprinkle with lemon juice.


 Wednesday – Fennel quinoa & Lamb

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I’m not a big fan of fennel, as I’ve said before. I am, however, a fan of quinoa and of Ottolenghi, so when I spotted this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks I trusted it would be good. Grocery stores were closed today so I will buy the fresh herbs and beans tomorrow and stir them in before serving; I’ve otherwise made a few minor tweaks. I will serve this with leftover Easter lamb from this weekend.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 medium fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup fava beans
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • Handful each chopped mint, coriander and dill
  • 2-3 limes

Instructions

  1. Sauté the fennel in a skillet on low-medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and soft. Add the sugar, vinegar and some salt, and cook, stirring, for two minutes, then remove from heat.
  2. Pour the quinoa into a pot of boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes. Do not overcook it – taste to make sure it still has some bite. Drain into a fine sieve, run under cold water, shake to remove excess liquid and add to the fennel.
  3. Throw the beans into a pot of boiling water, cook for a minute, drain and refresh. Press the beans gently to remove their leathery skins, then stir into the quinoa, along with the chili, cumin and herbs, and season.
  4. Take the limes and, using a small, sharp knife, trim off their tops and tails. Now cut down their sides, along their round curves, to remove the skin and white pith. Over a small bowl, supreme the limes by removing the segments from each lime, slicing between the membranes. Squeeze any remaining juice over the segments.
  5. Cut each lime segment into three and add it and the juice to the quinoa salad. Add the remaining olive oil and taste, adjusting the seasoning as necessary and possibly adding a little more olive oil if it seems a bit dry.

 Thursday – Farro salad

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I have been craving whole grains this week, particularly the nutty, chewy goodness of farro. This salad is fresh enough to fool me into thinking it’s summer (never a bad thing). I modified it slightly to suit my needs and I think I’ll serve it with a piece of fish or a couple of hard-boiled eggs.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • 1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Combine the water and farro in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well, and then transfer to a large bowl to cool.
  2. Add the tomatoes, onion, chives, and parsley to the farro, and toss to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss to coat. The salad can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.


Friday – Ribs & Sweet potato fries

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No recipe needed for the ribs – just salt/pepper a rack of fresh ribs in the slow cooker with some onion wedges, and after 3-4 hours slather with your favorite BBQ sauce and finish on “broil”. Serve with these yummy sweet potato fries!

Ingredients

  • Sweet potatoes, at least one per person
  • Enough olive oil to lightly and evenly coat the fries
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A generous pinch each of cayenne pepper and paprika

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel and slice the sweet potatoes. Toss into a mixing bowl or a plastic bag, and pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil, enough to lightly coat the fries. Season with salt, pepper, and spices. Mix/shake to distribute evenly.
  2. Pour the fries directly onto a non-stick baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway.

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