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Goan Coconut Curry & Butternut Squash Soup with Langostino Tails

I spent a lot of my formative years in Toronto, where I gained an appreciation for diversity that’s had an enduring impact on me. Toronto is a mecca of multiculturalism. You can find food from all over the world in various parts of the city: Greek town on Danforth, Korean in K-town, Little Italy and Corso Italia on College and St. Clair, Portugal Village at Dundas West, Japanese & Hungarian in the Annex, Polish in Roncesvalles, Latin American in Kensington Market, all kinds of Caribbean all over the place, at least two Little Indias and about six Chinatowns. What a mouthful…but that’s not all. Toronto is also a haven for regional cuisine. Toronto’s ethnic communities are really proud of their regional diversity and the city certainly encourages diversity to flourish. So if you wanted, say, SicilianAssamese, or Hunan cuisine, you could find it.

Beyond an appreciation for the international (which I have in excess at times) Toronto also imparted an appreciation for regional diversity. When I was growing up I met a lot of South Asians but very few of them were Goan. The Goans I did meet were really proud of being Goan and I always felt like they had an aura of uniqueness around them. That brings me to this meal. One of my goals with Cristina’s Kitchen is to learn about different cultures through food and of course, I especially like delving into the nuances of regional cuisine.

You can learn a lot about the different geographical and cultural influences of a culture just by looking at ingredients. For example, Goan cuisine is characterized by a lot of coconut fish curries, due to the fact that it’s in a coastal area, but what’s more interesting is that it also has significant Portuguese influence from 400 years of colonialism. There are Goan/Portuguese samosas (chamuças), chorizo (chouriço), and feijoada.

P1140498The spices used in Goan cuisine are in different proportions from other curries. There’s much more of a focus on coriander and cumin. The spice paste is fairly simple overall, especially in comparison to others I’ve made (like Indonesian Beef Rendang – that was super complex). It’s onion, garlic, ginger, chilies and ground turmeric plus toasted and ground coriander and cumin. Simple no? The toasting and grinding of your own spices may seem tedious and unnecessary but I promise it makes a difference…and the smell of fresh ground coriander is a life experience in and of itself. P1140494For this recipe I adapted the spice blends used in two recipes for Goan Fish Curry and Goan Fish Stew. Granted, the use of butternut squash may not be authentic but the seasoning is close. All I did was sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger along with the butternut squash. Once it was aromatic I added the chili, toasted and ground dry spices and turmeric and then blended with coconut milk in a food processor. I didn’t have dried Kashmiri chilies per the recipes I used for reference so I substituted sweet paprika not cayenne because they’re meant to add flavour rather than heat. I also didn’t have fresh green chilies so I sprinkled in some cayenne at the end to get the spice level to where I wanted.

P1140536I added 350 grams / 12 oz of cooked langostino tails (from Trader Joe’s) for protein because that’s what I had but you can substitute with shrimp or even veggies. You can also up the amount of langostino or shrimp to 450 grams / 1 lb.

Overall it’s really simple and definitely doable on a weeknight. The butternut squash and coconut milk base with langostino tails make for a tasty, nutritious, and hearty meal that also looks really lovely and feels very sophisticated. I like to think of it as a fall inspired take on traditional Goan cuisine.  More than that, making Goan food made me feel like I’d been let in on a secret…on the reason for that aura of uniqueness and pride amongst the Goans I’ve met. Few things compare to the feeling of getting closer to another culture by making their food. That was definitely the best part of this meal.

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Ingredients

1 large butternut squash, cooked and cubed

1-2 TBSP coconut oil or ghee for cooking

1 medium red onion, finely diced

4 cloves of garlic, mashed or minced

2 inch (5cm) piece of ginger, mashed or minced

4 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

4 dried kashmiri chilies or substitute 1 TBSP sweet paprika

1 can natural unsweetened coconut milk

2 cups of water

1 green chilli, finely diced (or substitute ground cayenne to taste)

Salt to taste

350 – 450 grams / 12 – 16 oz cooked langostino tails (or substitute same amount of cooked shrimp)

2 TBSP chopped cilantro + more for garnish

Method

 Bake butternut squash. I baked mine whole at 400 F / 200 C for about 45 minutes. You can peel, seed and before or after baking – it’s up to you. Also, this step can be done the day before or way in advance and frozen if you’re a meal prep aficionado.

Heat oil or ghee in a skillet on medium-high heat.

Add onion, garlic, and ginger. Sauté until aromatic and soft – about 8 minutes. Increase heat, add butternut squash and continue sautéing another 5 minutes or so to develop the flavours.

While sautéing, start another smaller skillet on medium heat and add the dried chilies (if using) and the coriander and cumin seeds. Heat gently for about 5 minutes or until aromatic. Grind in a mill or with a mortar and pestle.

Add the ground seeds, dried chilies (or paprika), turmeric, and coconut milk to the skillet and mix.

Pour all ingredients into food processor or blender and blend until smooth.

Return soup to a pot over medium-high heat. Add two cups of water and mix until incorporated.

Add the green chilies (or cayenne) as well as salt to your taste. I used about 2 tsp each of cayenne and salt.

Add cooked langostino tails (or shrimp) and cilantro. Mix, head tot your preference, then serve garnished with more cilantro.

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Spicy Heirloom Carrot Thai Salad

Back in May we ordered four thai bird chili seedlings on Amazon.  A few weeks later we received a USPS box stuffed with styrofoam squiggles and four tiny plants that could fit in the palm of my hand. They were so small and frail looking we weren’t sure we’d be able to keep them alive.

Not only did they survive, but they got huge! They even made it through our month long trip to Asia totally unattended on our balcony. They’re surprisingly hearty little plants…and so so spicy.

So now we have four giant Thai chili plants that provide more chilis than we know what to do with. I’m always trying to think of ways to incorporate them into our meals.

P1140487This past weekend we picked up some beautiful heirloom tomatoes and carrots from the farmers market. The tomatoes became a Heirloom Tomato Tart with Gruyère & Thyme. I wanted to do something with the carrots that would keep them front and centre while also highlighting their beautiful colours. A soup would have blended all the colours together and roasting seemed sort of boring.

I was picturing beautiful ribbons or spirals of carrot but wasn’t sure what would go with them. To cook or not to cook? I decided to leave them raw in all their natural glory in a spicy Thai peanut dressing made with none other than our abundant chili harvest.

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I used a veggie spiralizer for the carrots. You could also use a vegetable peeler and run it down the carrots to make ribbons. I think that might work better because the spiralizer doesn’t do very well with smaller narrower vegetables so it wasn’t able to get through a lot of the carrot. My vegetable peeler has a serrated blade (for some reason) which would have created a ridged effect on the carrot ribbons that I didn’t really want. I also tried using a mandolin but that made very straight julienne like carrots, rather than curly spirals. So, your best bet is a vegetable peeler or a veggie spiralizer if you don’t mind some carrot by-product. I’m going to roast the remaining carrot later today and make a curry soup.

I probably used 6-8 chilis for about 2 servings. I removed the stems, sliced them thinly and removed the seeds to reduce the spice while keeping the flavour. Between spiralling, slicing, and making the dressing the whole dish took less than 20 minutes. It made a great lunch but would be good for dinner too with some protein on top. Also, simply omit the sugar to make it paleo. Peanuts are apparently not paleo and I don’t think this would be much of a dressing without them so turns out the sugar isn’t the only problem….apologies paleo eaters!

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Ingredients

450 grams / 1 lb spiralized/ribboned/julienned heirloom carrots

6-8 Thai bird chilis, sliced and seeded

2 TBSP peanut butter

1 TBSP palm sugar or brown sugar

Juice of one lime

1 TBSP fish sauce

1 clove garlic (mashed)

1 cm cube of fresh ginger (mashed)

3-4 TBSP hot water

2 TBSP fresh chopped cilantro

Fresh slices lime, chopped cilantro and peanuts for garnish (optional)

 

Method

Spiralize carrots with a veggie spiralizer or ribbon by running a vegetable peeler down them to create long strips. You can also julienne if you don’t have the other tools but it’s not ideal. Put the finished carrots in a bowl.

Slice and seed the chilis (or don’t – it’s up to you how much spice you like). Add to the bowl with the carrots.

In another smaller bowl combine the peanut butter, sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, mashed garlic and ginger, and enough hot water to make them all blend together. For me it was 4 TBSP but do one at a time and see how it looks, you don’t want it to be watery.

Pour the sauce over the carrots, toss until coated. Sprinkle in cilantro and toss again. Garnish to your liking.

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Spiced Butternut Squash & Pastured Beef Skillet

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Butternut squash season is here and I couldn’t be happier. This is by far one of my favourite meals. I make different iterations of it quite often, especially for brunch on lazy Sundays (and more than once for dinner on lazy weeknights). I’ve varied my protein selection quite often (corned beef, bacon, ground beef, ground turkey) but I’ve generally stuck to regular white potatoes as my main starch. I didn’t even think about swapping in other starches until we started cleaning up our diet with whole30 that I realized that plain white potatoes are not the most nutritious or exciting option. I think I may have shied away from other options because I wasn’t a big fan of sweet potatoe before. Thankfully those days are gone.

In addition to now loving sweet potato, I’ve also discovered the amazing taste and nutritional benefits of butternut squash.  It has a much milder flavour than sweet potato but still enough sweetness to blend beautifully in heavily spiced preparations. Also, it has half the calories and half the carbs of white potato and sweet potato but about the same amount of fiber, potassium, protein, vitamin A, calcium, and magnesium? As a bonus, it also has almost 10 times the vitamin C. Isn’t that amazing?

You’ll need to cook the squash beforehand but it’s really straightforward. You can peel or dice it either before cooking or after. I prefer after because it’s easier to work with for me, but it depends on your preferences.

If you’re peeling and dicing beforehand: peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, cut lengthwise first and scoop out seeds then dice the squash into 1 cm x 1 cm cubes, toss with olive oil or ghee and bake at 190 C / 375 F for about 30 minutes.

If you’re peeling and dicing afterward: cut the squash lengthwise, scoop out seeds and pulp, brush with ghee or olive oil, and bake at 375 for approximately 45 minutes. You can do this in advance. Cooked dice squash will keep in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for 6 – 12 months. We used the squash in this skillet for two different meals, sautéed with kale for dinner the night before and in the skillet shown here for brunch the next day.

Like I said above, you can substitute any meat. I think next time I’ll also add more vegetables. One thing I never change is that I always add a pinch of curry powder. It makes all the difference.

Also, this skillet is paleo and whole30 compliant.

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Ingredients

6 oz 80/20 grassfed ground beef
1 cup cooked butternut squash finely cubed
4 large eggs
2 TBSP chives diced
1 tbsp ghee
1/2 yellow onion diced
1 tsp + 1/4 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/4 tsp dried summer savoury
1/2 tsp curry powder
dash of cayenne
S&P to taste

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Method

Preheat oven to 400 F / 200 C
Sautee diced onion in ghee on medium heat until translucent
Add ground beef, increase heat to high and cook until browned but not quite done (approximately 7-8 minutes) while stirring frequently
Add butternut squash and continue stirring frequently. You want to try to get a bit of char on the squash without overcooking it
Add 1 tsp parsley flakes, savoury, curry, cayenne and S&P
Mix well to incorporate spices
Crack the eggs onto the mix, spacing them evenly
Sprinkle tops of eggs with S&P to taste before baking (it might not stick after)
Put skillet into oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until eggs are no longer runny
Remove from oven and sprinkle liberally with remaining parsley flakes and chives
Serve hot with a side of tomatoes to make a more complete meal

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Romanian Eggplant Spread With Heirloom Cherry Tomato, Cucumber & Parsley On Toast Medallions

No matter how many times I eat this eggplant spread it still brings back memories of long summers spent in Romania. You know how they’ve found that the very process of recalling your memories also permanently alters them? Well making this spread is like recalling a memory that doesn’t seem to ever change.

In Romanian it’s called salatã de vinete or eggplant salad, a common name for this type of spread throughout the Balkans and Mediterranean. It takes quite a while to make (3 hours at minimum) so we didn’t always have it when I was growing up. It was reserved for balmy summer evenings when, exhausted from the heat of the day, we would sit around the grape trellis covered rectangular table in my grandparents yard eating the foods of summer: fresh made sheep’s milk feta, sweet tomatoes still warm from the sun beating down on them in the garden, crisp cucumbers, crusty bread from the bakery up the hill, and oftentimes this eggplant spread.

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Picking grapes in my grandparents yard circa late summer 2011.

Romanian food doesn’t have the sexy reputation of Greek or Italian but I’ve made this spread for non-Romanian friends before and they couldn’t get enough. The eggplant is cooked thoroughly so it takes on a really luxurious texture. When it’s ready I usually add sweet yellow onion, but this time I used red and it tasted almost the same. The cooking also imparts a smokiness that rounds out the raw onion nicely. A creamy element comes in the form of either  canola oil or mayonnaise (which I prefer).

The eggplant releases a lot of liquid while it’s cooking so if you’re making it in the oven make sure you place a foil lined pan underneath it as shown here.

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You’ll know the eggplant is ready when it’s totally deflated and the skin crumbles when you flip it with tongs. This is what my eggplants looked like when they were ready.

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Depending on the eggplants and your oven it could take longer than an hour. You should also make sure not to skip draining. My mother used to tell me that they needed to be drained to prevent a bitter flavour from developing. Being the rebel that I am I once skipped the draining and went straight to blending and refrigerating. The amount of liquid that pooled in my eggplant spread was unbelievable. A lot of liquid comes out of the eggplant and if you don’t drain it properly you’ll be disappointed. Also, even if you do drain properly some separation might happen. In that case just mix it before eating

Salatā de vinete is best served cold on toasted bread with tomato and cucumber. For the pictures shown here I used a round glass to cut circles out of bread, which I then toasted. I smeared a thin layer of mayonnaise on the toast medallions, and layered a slice of cucumber, a teaspoonful of eggplant spread, diced heirloom tomatoes on top and a sprinkle of diced parsley. If you really wanted to go for the gold, you could even whip up some homemade mayonnaise. That recipe is for olive oil mayonnaise but canola could easily be substituted (and would be more authentic).

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Ingredients

2-3 large eggplants
Half a yellow or red onion
Salt to taste
1-2 TBSP mayonnaise (optional, you can substitute with 1 TBSP canola or olive oil)

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Method

Oven Method
Preheat oven to 400
Set up your oven racks as shown in the picture (one on the bottom and one half way up)
Cover a half sheet pan with aluminum foil and place on lower oven rack
Wash eggplants and place directly on upper rack right above the foil lined pan
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour, turning every 15-20 minutes (eggplants are done when they’ve deflated and the skin pulls from the flesh as shown in the picture)
Remove from oven and splay out in colander or bowl to cool and start drain
Once eggplants are cool, remove the skin by peeling it off from the flesh
Discard skin and allow the remaining eggplant to drain for up to an hour (you can also squeeze it to make this go faster)
Place in a food processor and blend with onion until smooth (if you don’t have a food processor you can also use a blender or finely dice the onion and use a potato masher)
Salt to taste and add mayonnaise if you want to
Serve chilled or at room temperature

Barbecue Method
Cook eggplant on a hot barbecue turning frequently until deflated (approximately 15-20 minutes)
Follow the rest of the instructions for oven method

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Pancetta & Chive Devilled Eggs with Olive Oil Mayonnaise

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These stuffed eggs are surprisingly quick & easy to make and they taste absolutely amazing. When made with this olive oil mayonnaise, they’re also paleo and whole30 approved.

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paleo devilled eggs

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 12

Serving Size: 2

Calories per serving: 140

paleo devilled eggs

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs (boiled medium-well and halved lengthwise)
  • 1/4 cup pancetta, cooked crispy
  • 2 TBSP olive oil mayonnaise
  • 2 TBSP chives diced
  • 1 tsp prepared yellow mustard
  • S&P to taste

Instructions

  1. Bring salted water to boil, add eggs, an boil for approximately 4 minutes
  2. Remove eggs from heat and place in ice bath for a few minutes to cool
  3. Remove pancetta from heat and drain on paper towel save the grease for other uses
  4. Remove eggs from ice bath, peel, and slice in half lengthwise
  5. Use a spoon to scoop out yolks and place them in a bowl
  6. Add the mayo, mustard, pancetta, and half the chives to the yolks and mix until well combined
  7. Season with S&P to taste
  8. Garnish with remaining chives and serve

Notes

None

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bacon, Egg, & Broccoli Muffins

Around week 2 of our Whole30 Bogdan and I started getting really sick of eating plain old eggs every morning. We were also getting even more sick of having to make plain old eggs every morning. So one afternoon I made these egg muffins so I wouldn’t have to worry about breakfast the next morning. I separated my eggs and beat my whites to stiff peaks in order to make a light and fluffy muffin but honestly, on a cost-benefit basis it really doesn’t add much. Just be aware that the yield here is for 26 mini muffins but if you don’t separate your eggs it may be much less. You can multiply the calories per muffin by 26 then divide by however many muffins you make. Just for the math inept.

Enjoy!

paleo bacon, egg, and broccoli muffins

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 26

Serving Size: 1

Calories per serving: 35

paleo bacon, egg, and broccoli muffins

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup broccoli cut into tiny florets
  • 1/2 cup paleo bacon, diced and cooked until crispy
  • 1 TBSP dill, diced finely
  • S&P to taste
  • 1 TBSP ghee (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Cook diced bacon on medium heat until crispy
  3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl
  4. Grease your mini muffin pan with ghee or alternatively use mini muffin pan liners
  5. Spoon mixture into pan
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until set
  7. Allow to cool and pop out of pan
  8. Will keep at least a week in the fridge

Notes

Mini muffin pan Mini muffin liners (optional)

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