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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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Andouille Carbonara

We were at the farmers market asking around everywhere for chorizo. A few weeks earlier we attended a dinner to celebrate the engagement of two of our friends. They showed us a really neat Portuguese cooking method that involves setting alcohol on fire in a ceramic pig.

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How cool is that? As you can imagine I had to have one. I got the pig but the chorizo was no where to be found.   I asked everywhere but the closest thing I could find was andouille. I wasn’t sure if I would torch it (authenticity and all) but I knew I’d find something interesting to do with it in any case.

Carbonara is one of those things I crave every so often. What’s not to love about it? Creamy, cheesy, smoked cured meat….delicious. It was late on a lazy Saturday night and we had guests. We were all hungry for something comforting and rich. I was also hoping it would be easy and quick.

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I opened the fridge and stood there for a few minutes, thinking through the logistics of the different things I could make. I thought about pasta. I saw the andouille. That was that. The chives add a fresh counterpoint to the smokiness and flavour of the andouille. If you use andouille, look for a natural one without nitrites or preservatives like this andouille by Neto’s. You could use any sausage you have on hand like Spanish chorizo, Polish kabanosy, or even grassfed German Landjaeger. This makes about four average sized servings (or two enormous ones).

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Ingredients

4 servings spaghetti, fettuccine or other pasta of your choice

About 1/2 TBSP olive oil for sautéing

1/2 kg / 1 lb andouille (or other smoked sausage)

3 eggs

150 grams / 5.5 oz grated pecorino romano or parmigiano (you could also use gruyère in a pinch)

Salt to taste

Drizzle of olive oil for pasta

Freshly cracked black pepper and chopped chives for garnish

 

Method

Boil pasta, al dente is preferable. The time depends on the type of pasta so check the package directions. Generously salt the water so it tastes like the ocean.

Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat. While heating, cut the sausage into thin slices.

Pan fry the sausage until browned and crispy (or to your liking).

While sausage is frying, crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk. Add the cheese and mix until incorporated.

When pasta is finished cooking, drain it reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Return the drained pasta in the skillet with the andouille and add the cooking liquid. Increase heat and agitate pan to keep things moving. You want to get it hot.

Once hot, remove from heat and pour into the egg mixture while whisking quickly and consistently until the eggs thicken. The residual heat from the pasta and sausage will cook the eggs. Pouring the hot ingredients over the eggs and working quickly will prevent scrambling the eggs. It should be salty enough from the pasta water and sausage but taste and adjust to your preferences.

Garnish with fresh cracked black pepper and chives.

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Pumpkin Spice Steel Cut Oat Brûlée

Wow. That name is a mouthful. I wasn’t sure what to call this. I’ve seen recipes for all kinds of brûléed things: oatmeal on the view from great island, rice pudding on baked bree, even savoury corn on tasty kitchen. I was excited to try my hand at brûléeing something other than custard. I wanted to make a healthier version of crème brûlée but honestly I don’t think this is that much healthier. It needs quite a lot of sugar on top in order to caramelize rather than burning. In a few spots you can see tiny black marks where the oats weren’t covered properly by the sugar and burned rather than caramelizing.

I learned through this process that there’s a simple way to minimize this effect and get a nicer sugar crust without using as much sugar: when your oats are ready and still hot spoon into ramekins, flatten with a spoon as much as possible, and let them sit for at least 30 minutes so they form a dry layer on top. The sugar is less likely to soak in liquid this way and you’ll get less char and more caramel. Also on that note, once you’ve sugared the tops move quickly to get them torched or broiled because the sugar will begin soaking in sugar very quickly.

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I think I stewed my oats for about 40 minutes. I used 2.5 cups total of whole milk plus one whole cup of pumpkin puree, which resulted in really creamy and decadent tasting oats. I divided it into four ramekins for quite hearty servings. I think it would also divide nicely into six or even eight for a smaller component to go with the rest of brunch.

I tried to minimize the amount of sugar in the actual oats because there’s so much in the crust. There’s a total of 4 TBSP of brown sugar in the oats, plus about 1 TBSP of granulated sugar on top of each of my four ramekins. Bogdan said he would have liked more sugar in the oats. While the oats are cooking, taste and adjust to your preferences (keeping in mind that you don’t taste sweet as well when something is very hot). You can use less sugar on top as well just remember that anything not covered in sugar might just char.

I used a torch but you can also use your oven’s broiler setting. Moving quickly, slide your sugared ramekins (on a half sheet pan) under the broiler with the rack near the top but low enough that you can still see what’s happening. Don’t close the oven. Keep an eye on them because they’ll caramelize very quickly and can go from perfect to burnt in the blink of an eye.

Like I said above, I don’t think this is that much healthier than regular crème brûlée. I also don’t consider this a “healthified” version of crème brûlée. It’s a standalone recipe. A slightly more decadent take on a healthy breakfast or brunch.

creme brulee from above

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup / 200 grams dry steel cut oats
  • 2.5 cups / 585 ml whole milk, divided
  • 1 cup + / 235 ml + water
  • 1 cup / 250 grams pumpkin puree (unsweetened)
  • 4 TBSP / 50 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 whole star anise pod (if you don’t have it it’s ok but if you do it really adds a nice flavour note)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 – 8 TBSP granulated sugar for tops

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Method

Heat a heavy bottomed pot on the stove on high heat. Once pot has heated up, add oats and keep them moving around to evenly toast them a bit and bring out a more nutty flavour.

Once they smell toasty and nutty or they’ve browned slightly, reduce heat to medium, pour over 2 cups / 470 ml milk and add the star anise if you’re using it.

Stew uncovered until the oats have absorbed a lot of the milk (about 15-20 minutes). Stir and scrape up anything sticking to the bottom every so often. Add 1 cup / 235 ml of water, the pumpkin puree, and the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stew again until the oats are fully cooked (about 15-20 more minutes – taste as you go to see). Again, stir and scrape every so often. A lot of the liquid will reduce during the next stew. Feel free to add more water if the oats get really thick.

When the oats are cooked, add the remaining milk and stir until incorporated (continuing to cook for a few more minutes if it doesn’t absorb).

Spoon out into 4, 6 or 8 oven safe ramekins. Wait about 30 minutes for a skin to form on the tops then (moving quickly so the sugar doesn’t absorb liquid) sprinkle about 1 TBSP granulated sugar on the top of the oatmeal then torch (do one by one).

Alternatively, if you’re using the broiler slide your sugared ramekins (on a half sheet pan) under the broiler with the rack near the top but low enough that you can still see what’s happening. Don’t close the oven. Keep an eye on them because they’ll caramelize very quickly and can go from perfect to burnt in the blink of an eye.

Serve with fruit or crème fraîche for a cool counterpoint.

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Alton Brown’s Perfect Omelette with Balkan Sheep’s Milk Feta

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I’m just going to warn you before we go any further that if you make this you won’t be able to eat regular omelettes anymore. The first time we tasted the Alton Brown perfect omelette over a year ago we were immediately struck by the intense flavours that come through when you don’t cook the s*** out of your eggs. They are sublime. They’re smooth and custardy in the middle, providing the perfect environment to melt a bit of cheese or sprinkle some chopped herbs…but not too much! You don’t want to take away from the beautiful decadent custardy flavour of the eggs, which is perfect with just a sprinkle of salt as well.

It’s really more of a technique or preparation method than a recipe per se. Bogdan is the one who makes them in our household and I’ve requested his expertise for this post. He’s made perfect omelettes in a variety of ways over time. Some of our favourite “recipes” include goat cheese & chive, gruyere & ham, and straight up crumbled sheep’s milk feta on its own. All taste amazing in a perfect omelette and if there’s one truth to be gleaned it’s that when it comes to omelettes, less is always more.

The weekend after we had our first perfect omelette we had a brunch date with friends. We had a fairly late start to the day and all our favourite brunch places had 45+ minute waits, so we went to a greasy spoon. Someone in our party ordered an omelette. Bogdan and I weren’t omelette people to begin with. We never would have ordered one and we never made them at home. I for one just didn’t like the intense jumbled flavours in a normal omelette. They were always so full of stuff and sometimes I felt like that stuff just didn’t go with the taste of egg. That was until we had a perfect omelette. It changed everything. We were believers. It became a fixture in our lives, taking up residence between sunny side up and eggs benny in our at home brunch repertoire.

So, after this monumental egg related paradigm shift, you can imagine we were really eager to see the (as yet totally foreign) real life restaurant omelette to compare. We waited with bated breath for what seemed like a really long time. When our server started bringing our breakfasts two at a time we watched for the omelette. When it arrived at the table we did everything not to gasp at the grotesque bloated, burned, and beyond overcooked rubber dome on the plate. As a general rule, I try to avoid any meal that’s all the same colour. Not only was this omelette all one shade of slightly browned egg, but it was dome shaped and filled to the brim with all sorts of things. As it turns out, this particular diner’s house specialty was baked omelettes that puffed up into an inexplicably sturdy dome shape.

Bogdan and I looked at each other and knew we had been ruined for omelettes forever. Thanks Alton Brown.

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So here are a few of the cardinal rules of making a perfect omelette

  1. A perfect omelette is taken off the heat way before it’s cooked because it continues to cook with the residual heat. If you remove it from the heat as soon as it solidifies, you’ve already overcooked it. Once you taste a perfect omelette you’ll understand that overcooking is the worst thing you can do to eggs.
  2. A perfect omelette isn’t filled to the brim. Less is always more. A little sprinkle of cheese, a few pinches of slivered ham, a dash of chopped chives. You don’t need anymore than that and believe me it will be flavourful. For this recipe we used maybe half an ounce (15 grams or about 1 TBSP) of feta.
  3. If you choose mediocre eggs you’ll get a mediocre omelette. There are other preparations using eggs that don’t necessarily need the best eggs but in this case, as with custard or hollandaise, the eggs are the star of the dish so you should really use cage free and ideally organic. Farmers market would be best. The yellower the yolk the better.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • Half an ounce (15 grams/ 1 TBSP) crumbled balkan sheep’s milk feta
  • Unlimited butter
  • Pinch of salt (optional)

Alton Brown’s Perfect Omelette with Balkan Sheep’s Milk Feta

  1. About 5-10 minutes before you start put your eggs in a bowl of warm water so they come to room temperature. Putting them in the pan cold could make them cook unevenly. Likewise, if your fillings are very cold they can also affect the cooking process so those should also be taken out in advance.
  2. Preheat a non-stick skillet (preferably 8 inches for 3 eggs according to Alton Brown and Antonia Lofaso) on medium heat. This step is really critical. Imagine your oven dial on a 1 – 10 scale, you want to aim for 6 – 6.5 Too hot and they’ll overcook, not hot enough you might have some difficulty sliding the finished omelette off the pan.
  3. Prepare everything you’ll need because the eggs will only be cooking for about a minute. You’ll need to set our your butter, cheese, herbs, meat, salt, a spatula and a plate. Depending how much stuff you need to prepare you might have to do this step before you preheat your pan. P1120365_Fotor
  4. Crack the eggs one at a time into an empty bowl. Lightly whisk until incorporated. Normally you would add a pinch of salt here but if you’re using really salt cheese (taste your feta before) it might not be necessary.
  5. Butter the pan. If the butter browns your pan is too hot. If it doesn’t sizzle at all it’s too cold. You want it just warm enough so that when you drop the eggs in they’ll lightly sizzle.
  6. When you’re ready, pour the eggs into the pan then act fast. Set a timer if you need to so the next
  7. Using a silicone spatula scrape up the egg in middle of the pan so the cooked underside mixes with the uncooked top. Then pick up the skillet and gently swirl the egg around the edges (not high along the edges just over the existing egg).
  8. Put your skillet back on the burner and use your spatula to gently scrape off the edges and let them fall as they will towards the omelette. By this point there should only be a thin layer of uncooked eggs in the centre of your pan.
  9. Sprinkle on your filling in the very centre, trying not to get any on the outer edge of your omelette. P1120367_Fotor
  10. Use your spatula to loosen the omelette around the edges.
  11. Tip the skillet towards you and fold the bottom 1/3 of the omelette (closest to you) inwards toward the centre of the omelette. Then turn the pan toward your plate and use your spatula to slide the omelette onto the plate folded side first, flipping the final 1/3 over as you do.
  12. Garnish with any herbs you’re using. Serve immediately. Seriously. There’s no time for decorum here. If you’re cooking for a group tell everyone to just eat their omelette as soon as they get it because waiting even 5 minutes will really impact the final product. These are particularly nice served with tomatoes or field greens in a light lemon vinaigrette. Perfect.

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Also, for anyone who wants this process from the source, check out Alton Brown’s Good Eats Season 7 Episode 3 “The Egg Files VI: Zen and the Art of Omelet Maintenance“.

 

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