Flank Steak

I may have mentioned that I cook for a couple of people once or twice a week (an elderly couple and a hectic younger family). The other night one person requested flank steak. I love this cut of meat – prepared properly it is tender and very flavourful.

I first put on a rub I use for many things (see recipe below) that has a slight smokey but mostly mediterranean style flavour (fabulous on ribs). I rub this onto both sides of the meat and let it sit in the fridge for several hours up to overnight. When getting ready to cook it remember it is important take the meat out at least an hour before cooking so the meat can come to room temperature.  That way the fibres relax and the meat becomes less tough. Last addition is a thin brush of maple syrup over each side before searing. This gives a slightly caramelized outer edge.

I always sear the steak in a cast iron frying pan –  any heavy pan will do though. I sear it until each side is browned and then put it in the oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

Once cooked, take the meat out of the pan and put it on a plate or cutting board and let it sit for at about 10 minutes to again relax and re-absorb the juices.

Always cut against the grain and with this cut of meat you should cut thin slices. It makes a great meal or a really good sandwich.

I like to make a thin gravy using the pan I cooked the steak in and adding any kind of broth – for this recipe either beef or vegetable broth works well. I add about 2/3 to 1 cup (depending on how much I want) of broth. 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of butter and about ½ cup of sherry or port.  Whisk all of this together and let it reduce by about half (about 10 – 15 minutes).

Pour some of the gravy over the meat when serving and put the rest in a cup for adding as you go. I served this with boiled baby red potatoes.

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Spice Rub ingredients

2 tbsp group cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp dry mustard

1 tbsp coarse salt

1.5 tsp cayenne pepper

1.5 tsp ground cardamom

1.5 tsp ground cinnamon

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Dinner Club – Korea

The other Saturday it was my turn to host Dinner Club. This is where a group of 8 of us (plus 2 host guests) gather for dinner and it is all about a specific country of choice (the host picks a country). The food is mostly prepared by the host and each guest brings a bottle of something to drink from that area (or surrounding area) and we each give a 2-3 minute presentation on a different topic. These topics range from economics, government, culture, arts and literature, customs etc.  It’s always a fun evening and we all go away learning something about that country.

Last night was my turn to host and I chose Korea as the country for the evening. I must say by the end of the evening I learned a great deal about a country I knew very little about. It was great and kudos to the guests for all their input!

 

Now for the food (which is pretty much what this blog is all about!)

The menu was as follows:

Salad with sesame dressing

Side dishes included – Kimchee (spicy pickled cabbage), edamame, pickled carrots and radish and sesame spinach. (Most of these items I bought – edamame is just steamed and recipe for spinach follows)

Main course – Seared miso salmon on a bed of grilled corn and steamed baby pea sprouts, Korean sizzling beef, jab chae – a sweet potato noodle with spinach and carrots in a soy marinade (a real favourite)

Dessert was fresh fruit – peaches and blueberries, green tea cookies and sesame cookies.

Recipes to follow after the photos.

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Seared Miso Salmon with Corn and pea sprouts (you can use anything as a base veg for this)

 Serves: 4 (I doubled this recipe but had extra left over)

Ingredients:

4 skinless, boneless salmon filets (I didn’t double this portion as I was serving small pieces along with the other food)

1 cup white miso

1/4 cup mirin

1/4 cup sake (I didn’t have this so left it out)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil plus a few extra drops for sautéing sprouts and corn)

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen (I grilled the cobs on the BBQ and then sliced the kernels off (yes I am Type A 😉 )

Toasted sesame seeds to sprinkled over before serving (I also crumbled some roasted nori on top)

 

Directions:

Place salmon in a shallow dish and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together miso, mirin, sake, brown sugar, and sesame oil. Reserve 5 tablespoons of the mixture, cover, and refrigerate. Pour remaining mixture over salmon, cover, and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

In a large nonstick pan, add ½ cup of water and a drop or two of sesame oil. Steam pea sprouts till wilted, about 2 minutes. Take sprouts out and pat dry. Add canola oil and a few drops of sesame oil to the pan. Add corn and pea sprouts and sauté another 4 minutes until flavoured. Toss in scallions and reserved miso sauce. Mix gently to warm through and set aside, keeping warm.

Heat some canola oil in the same pan. Remove salmon from marinade and shake off any excess. Place filets in a single layer in pan and sear until centre is no longer raw. Divide corn and sprout mixture among four plates and top each with a piece of salmon. Garnish with sliced scallions and sesame seeds.

 

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Sesame Spinach

Ingredients:

1 lb. spinach, stemmed and washed (16 cups)

2 Tbs. Asian sesame oil

1 Tbs. soy sauce

Toasted white sesame seeds for garnish

1 tsp. plain rice vinegar

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

Mix (whisk) all ingredients (except spinach) in a medium bowl.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the spinach in the boiling water, stirring, just until bright green and wilted (this doesn’t take long). Transfer the spinach to a colander. Drain well and squeeze or press out excess water. Using your fingers, loosen the spinach slightly as you transfer it to a medium bowl.

Mix the spinach with the ingredients in the bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld. Return to cool room temperature before serving. (The spinach is best served on the day it’s made). Photo is a bit blurry – my apologies but had to shoot fast as people were going to dig in!

 

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Korean sizzling beef

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

1/4  cup soy sauce

2   tablespoons sugar

2   tablespoons dry white wine

2   large garlic cloves, very finely chopped

1   tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2   teaspoons crushed red pepper

1 -2 1/2 pound beef flank steak, cut across the grain into narrow 1/4-inch-thick slices

2 scallions thinly sliced on an angle

Steamed rice, for serving

 

Directions:

Using a Ziplock bag, add all ingredients without the beef. Mix ingredients in the bag then add the thin slices of beef. Seal bag and marinate overnight turning the bag on occasion to ensure the mixture saturates the beef.

Set the BBQ to med high heat (about 300 F) and grill the beef slices (this sounds tedious but they only take about a minute per side).

Serve beef with some rice on a plate and scatter scallions over top.

Last image is the Jab Chae which I purchased as I really wasn’t sure I could make it.

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La Cubana Restaurant Toronto (Roncesvalles)

I had dinner on Wednesday evening with my friend Susan on Roncesvalles (great area in Toronto’s  west end with some fabulous restaurants, stores and buildings). We met up at a new place called La Cubana. It is a casual place with a great patio in the back and a fair amount of seating inside. We sat at the bar because I love to watch the chefs cook and plate the food and we always have good service since the bartender is always around. Tonight was no different.

The restaurant is very new so they are still getting a few things tied down but I would go back in a minute.  Here is what we ate and just a quick FYI – the meal including tax and tip came to $19 each (no drinks we just had water). Not bad!

We shared two dishes and a “BOCADITO” which is an appetizer. For the appetizer we went with the most popular dish which was  TOSTONES RELLENOS, BEEF PICADILLO.

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These were fried plantains topped with a marinated ground spiced beef and drizzled with a white sauce, topped with peppers and onions and cilantro. Delicious!!!!

Next dish was a PRESSED CUBANO SANDWICH which was a variety of ham, gouda and a few other items that I just couldn’t write down fast enough.  Great sandwich and served like a panini.

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Next up we shared the GUAVA BBQ BEEF SHORT RIB plate.  Yum!  This was a slow braised short rib with purple coleslaw, rice and beans and a TOSTONE (still not sure what it was but it sure tasted good – seemed to be plantain slices fried together maybe).

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Great meal for a great price! I can see this becoming a go to hang out. This is a definite recommend!!!

Here is the menu for  the restaurant.

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More Party Food

In a continuation of the party I went to last weekend and catered as well – I am sharing the food that was prepared for 30 people.  First off the party was amazing – my friends Jay and Jonathan live in Cambridge Ontario and have a fabulous historic home on a huge lot so the evening was spent under a pergola on the deck and then on the grounds for a big bonfire as the evening got cooler.  Too much fun was had by all.

Last weekend I posted the stuffed dates and salad (truth be told the salad was for another event but I liked the way it turned out). This week are all of the foods I prepared.  Remember everything was to be finger food style so plates and cutlery were not a necessity.

Here was my thinking behind the choice of dishes I made. I wanted food that could be eaten with fingers (i.e. on skewers) and to cover the basics of salad, main course meat/fish, side dishes and then dessert.

The while I had the above order in mind – we put everything out together as it worked better for people to just come to the table and pick their choices.

The menu and recipes – this is a long list so stay with me on this…

First off salad skewers made with grape tomatoes, bocconcini cheese balls and chunks of baby cucumbers. Just before serving I drizzled some balsamic glaze over these skewers.

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Next on the list was smoked salmon with cream cheese on crackers with some crushed dried nori (seaweed strips) sprinkled over top.

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Then came Korean grilled beef skewers and the honey mustard chicken skewers.  Below is the recipe for the meat – the Korean Beef is now a new favourite – everyone went nuts over it.

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I did the prep work for the meat the day before and marinated for 24 hours in ziplock bags.

Honey Mustard Chicken Skewers

So the honey mustard chicken is simple – just mix about a ¼ cup of honey with about 1/4 cup of olive oil and about 4 tbsp of dijon mustard – adjust to suit your taste.  I also added a few crushed garlic cloves and some ground black pepper. I used 6 chicken breasts cut into thin strips lengthwise so there was enough to put on a skewer.

Korean Beef Skewers – I got this recipe from Food and Wine magazine but adjusted a bit:

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons dry white wine – I used the same amount of chicken broth as I didn’t have any white wine handy

2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

1 2 1/2 pound beef flank steak, cut across the grain into thin long slices

1/4-inch-thick slices 16 scallions – I didn’t use these

Vegetable oil, for rubbing

Salt – didn’t add this either as the soy sauce had enough salt

1. Combine the soy sauce, sugar, white wine, chopped garlic, toasted sesame oil, and crushed red pepper, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the sliced flank steak and coat thoroughly in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate the steak for at least 4 hours or overnight. 2. Working in batches, grill the steak over high heat (I BBQ’d it) until the slices are richly browned and medium-rare, about 30 seconds per side. Put pieces on a plate and let them cool – then put them on skewers just before serving.

Next was mini turkey meatballs in a sweet chilli sauce – this is my usual baked turkey meatball recipe but just made them smaller and tossed them with a store bought sweet chilli sauce instead of tomato sauce and put some into a cup for dipping as well.

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Next on the menu was my tuna and sweet potato cakes but made mini size and a cup of 1% yogurt for dipping.

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I then thought I needed something else that wasn’t meat and what do people love more than shrimp? Again I had a craving for shrimp and chorizo sausage so that was the next group of skewers.

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These are super simple – I sautéd the sliced chorizo and put aside – next I sautéd the shrimp in some garlic and put them in a dish – then it was just a matter of putting them together on bamboo skewers (they looked better on the shorter skewers than the long ones)

The side dishes were baby stuffed potatoes where you just boil the baby potatoes, then scoop out the centre leaving a bit of potato to hold the shape and then mix crumbled cooked bacon, chives and sour cream with the bits of potato you have scooped out . Once it is all mixed just spoon it back into the potatoes.  This was quite finicky but tasted good in the end so worth while.

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Last of the main course food was grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.  Simple and easy – just toss the asparagus in olive oil, then grill them (I did them on the BBQ) and then wrap a couple of stalks in a piece of prosciutto and you are done.

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Finally dessert – you saw the dates in my last post (I will put in again just so you see them). I put fresh fruit on skewers so they could be taken away from the table and you got several pieces at one without a mess. Each skewer had a slice of pineapple, a green grape, a strawberry, a purple grape and a raspberry.  You can make these with any fruit you like.

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And there you have it the whole party in food.  What I am not showing is the amazing evening we all had.  Great company, kudos to the hosts and all I can say is “when is the next party”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner at Embrujo Flamenco (Toronto)

The other night my dear friend and business partner Peter took me out for dinner.  We managed to get a coupon from Groupon for a Spanish style tapas restaurant called Embrujo Flamenco located at 97 Danforth Ave in Toronto.  All I can say is “wow what a great meal!”  It was a Thursday night so no Flamingo dancing show but the attentive staff and wonderful food certainly made up for that. With the coupon we got 6 tapas (although one or two of the tapas offered counted as two orders), and a small glass of Cava to start.

Here is what we ordered – keeping in mind Peter doesn’t eat anything that swims ( 😉 ) we had a salad to start, then a couple of meat dishes, a side dish and a dessert style dish to finish.  We just smiled when they offered dessert as we were both completely full when we finished. We went for a walk after and stopped for a coffee. All in – it was a great evening.

1) Mixed green salad with pear and walnuts (sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and a balsamic glaze). This was delicious!

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2) Rack of lamb with a fresh fig sauce – this order counted as two – we got 4 nice size chops and the flavour was wonderful!  Cooked to perfection!

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3) Sirloin chunks on a bed of home cut fries topped with a light mustard sauce – This was like a spanish poutine but even better. The sauce was light and creamy and didn’t over power the other items.  Perfectly cooked steak.

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4) Sautéed mushrooms in an extra virgin garlic olive oil and chilli.  Nice addition to the meat dishes

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5) Baked goat cheese with honey and herbs – we used this as dessert since it had a lovely sweetness to it.  I could have licked the dish clean. Made me think of a salad dish I could make with a green salad, roasted nuts, a balsamic dressing and a slice of baked or sautéed goat cheese on top.  Must try that – I’ll blog about that salad when I make it.

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I woke up thinking about how good this meal was the next morning!  It’s a definite recommendation!

 

 

 

Shepherds Pie (with a twist)

So who doesn’t remember growing up having shepherds pie and loving it? Okay perhaps some of you didn’t have it – but I did, and I always loved it.  For the last few years though I have tried to reduce the number of carbohydrates I consume so I switched to sweet potatoes from white potatoes (when I have potatoes which isn’t that often). The “twist” I learned from my friend Zannat (who’s blog I have reposted a number of times – food4happiness). The twist is to add lentils to your ground beef. It adds fibre, protein and increases the amount of the beef mixture so you get much more for very little extra cost. I happen to love lentils so this is perfect for me. I substituted white potatoes for sweet and didn’t use too too much on top so it still remains healthy and low fat.

Shepherds pie 2

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Ingredients:

1 lb of lean (I used extra lean) ground beef

1 tin of lentils (cooked)

1 cooking onion – chopped

1-1.5 cups of mixed frozen vegetables (add as much as you like really)

1 pint of mushrooms chopped (about 10-12 large)

1 egg whisked

4-5 sweet potatoes medium sized (add more if you want a thicker topping)

¼ cup of low fat yogurt

½ cup of grated parmesan cheese

A couple of dashes of ketchup (less than ¼ cup)

1 tsp of Harissa spice mix (if you don’t have just add a pinch of cumin and a tiny pinch of cardamon and a pinch of cinnamon – really only a tiny amount of each).

1 tbsp of chopped garlic – about 2-3 cloves

I don’t use salt but if you want you can add a pinch of salt

½ tsp of cornstarch mixed with 3 tbsp of water or beef broth (not obligatory – this step just helps thicken the beef mixture and absorb some of the liquid)

3 tsp olive oil

Directions:

Sauté a chopped onion till tender and slightly browned in 1 tsp of olive oil (I sometimes add a tsp of brown sugar to help caramelize the onion a bit). Add 1 more tsp of oil with the garlic, mushrooms and  frozen vegetables once the onions are pretty much done. Sauté all together and add the broth and corn starch. Remove and put in a bowl for the time being.

Add beef and a tin of lentils to the pan along with the spices, ketchup, salt and pepper. Brown the meat with the lentils and then add back in the vegetables, onions and mushrooms and stir together. Add the egg and mix everything up.

While the meat is cooking, peel and cube the potatoes (try to make them even sized pieces so they will cook evenly). Microwave them in water until they are able to be pieced easily by a fork. You can also boil them if you prefer – if boiling then start the potatoes before the meat and vegetables.

Turn off the heat on the meat when all cooked and let sit in pan. Drain potato pieces into a bowl and add yogurt and parmesan cheese and whip using either a hand blender or a stand mixer. Using this type of equipment whips air into the potatoes and makes them a bit lighter. You can also do it by hand it just takes a bit longer and is more work. Once the potatoes are whipped taste and add seasoning as needed.

Put meat mixture into a deep dish and pat it down so it is firm. Then “frost” the top with the potato mixture as you would a cake. Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees (F) to brown the top a bit and then serve. I made it in several containers as you can see in the picture and froze it so I had lots of meals from the one cooking session.

Leftover Brisket with Friends

As many of you who read this blog will have figured out by now, I love sharing food with friends.  It is one of my favourite things to do.

This time the sharing took place with my friends and neighbours just a couple of doors over. Zannat (who writes a great blog I follow “food 4 happiness“), made steamed collard greens with garlic – of course anything made with garlic in my books has to be good. I brought over leftover BBQ brisket and sweet potato and cauliflower mash.  The great thing about brisket is, it is always better the next day or even two days after. Below is how I made the potato mash.  See the beef brisket link above for the brisket recipe.

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Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Mash – perfect comfort food

1 potato per person

1 handful of cauliflower pieces per person

Boil or steam both the above ingredients till soft enough to mash (you may need to drain them well so mash is not too watery)

Combine both in a bowl and add a spoonful or two of yogurt and a handful of grated old cheddar cheese (yes that is the secret ingredient!)

I use a hand mixer to really blend the ingredients well. Mix till fluffy and there are no lumps.

Serve and enjoy!

Dinner Club at Jocelyn and Bills’

Argentina was the country of choice for our dinner club evening at Jocelyn and Bills’.  What a spread!  While there are usually 8 of us plus up to 2 additional guests, there was enough food to feed an army. And what amazing flavours of food!.

We had tomatoes dry grilled till blackened on one side – then sliced cross hatched with black pepper sprinkled over them.  The tomatoes were so juicy drizzled with a bit of olive oil and some fresh oregano leaves sprinkled on top.

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There were endives seared in red white vinegar and melted sugar – sounds very sweet but it actually just gave a hint of sweetness as the melted sugar didn’t stick but slightly moistened the endives.  Oh sooo goood!

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Other appetizers included a piece of provolone with cracked pepper and chilli peppers heated in a pan until softened and then cut and spread on small pieces of baguette.  This was outstanding.  Another starter was a platter of soft pears peeled and sliced served with prosciutto and topped with chopped parsley and olive oil (I think that was the herb topping?) There were sliced potatoes (mandolin thinly sliced), empanadas, and chimichurri sauce and other delicacies served as well.

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Then the main course  – meat – which is what is served in Argentina in abundance.  We had amazing grilled steaks and sausages.  A meal to remember!

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And on top of all this amazing food – we all did a presentation on a slice of Argentina. In the end we walked away stuffed and learned on all things Argentinian.  Fabulous evening.

Brisket in BBQ sauce – Slow Cooked

After a big storm here a couple of weeks ago we had a power outage for two and a half days!  While the things in the freezer stayed pretty well frozen I had a brisket in there that started to get a bit of freezer burn so I decided to cook it. As you may know, a brisket is quite a bit of meat so I figured I needed help eating it.  I invited my friends/neighbours over for dinner to help out (including sending them home with a care package). I was still left with half a brisket that was very very tasty.  The next morning I got a call that a cousin in law passed away and I went over that night to be with my cousin and family and brought the rest of the brisket for everyone to have for dinner – nothing was wasted and it was perfect comfort food.

Below is the recipe I used for this brisket – please note that I pretty much make it up as I go so every time I make it, it is a bit different. This was a BBQ style brisket cooked in a slow cooker.

Brisket

Ingredients

1 brisket (whatever size you want)

1 tin of finely diced tomatoes

2 tbsp of harissa spice mix (if you don’t have this then just add a pinch of cumin, cardamom, mustard powder, black pepper and a bit of cayenne (really you can’t go wrong so mix spices as you like)

1/2 cup of your favourite BBQ sauce

1/2 cup of sweet chilli sauce

1/4 cup of water or beef broth

1/4 cup of brown sugar

2 tbsp of steak spice

1-2 large onions sliced thinly

1 tbsp chopped garlic

Directions

Trim excess fat off brisket leaving a thin layer. Mix all dry spices and rub into meat and let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours up to overnight (I leave it overnight).

Brown onion (thinly sliced) and add garlic when onions are almost done.  Pour into a slow cooker. Add half the wet ingredients (sauces and tomato) to the onion mix at bottom of pot.

Sear meat on both sides in a large pan browning the outsides a bit.

Put meat on top of sauce and onion mixture and pour the rest of the sauce over top.

Cover slow cooker and turn to “low” heat and cook for 7 hours.

After 7 hours in the slow cooker – turn meat over and leave on warm for an hour or two.

When ready to serve, slice meat against the grain and pour sauce from pot over top.  If the sauce has too much fat on top skim it off with a spoon before serving.

Summer BBQ with Friends

Had dinner the other night at my favourite spot to eat – my friends Ted and Judy’s house.  Some of you may remember a few blogs I have posted of extraordinary meals I am lucky enough to partake in when I eat at their place.  It is always a gourmet feast. The other night was no exception!

Menu: sirloin beef kabobs, vegetable kabobs, grilled asparagus and a seared/baked potato dish – all tasting amazing.  We had a watermelon salad that I made to go with the meal but will blog that next week. I am including images of each food item with a short description of how they were made.  Not overly fancy  and complicated in prep but a visual feast – just a good use of ingredients that made the meal.

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Vegetable kabobs – marinated in the same sauce as the beef – teriyaki sauce, sesame oil and orange juice.

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Cooked to perfection! Same sauce as the vegetables

asparagus grilled

Grilled with a bit of olive oil and then finished after cooking with a touch of really nice balsamic vinegar.

potato dish

Potatoes – These were melt in your mouth delicious!.  Potatoes were cut into 1 inch rounds, placed in a non stick pan with some olive oil till it completely filled the base.  A small amount of chicken broth was added to the pan so the potatoes fry and steam at the same time. Half way though, garlic cloves still in their skin where added and pushed in between slices until the bottom was cooked and browned.  Then the whole dish was flipped (using a second plate to turn over potatoes keeping them all together). The plate was put in the oven to finish cooking.  Half way though the garlic was soft and taken out and put in a bowl with some olive oil and mashed till pulpy.  Then this slurry was brushed over the potatoes while in the oven to give flavour and help them brown even more.  Sounds like  fair bit of work but it is so worth it!

Outstanding meal once again – for some reason both Ted and Judy didn’t take me seriously when I mentioned renting out my house and coming to live with them – I promised I would only come upstairs for meals 😉

Check out my next blog for the watermelon salad.