Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Baked Porcupine Balls (Meatballs)

I feel like I owe all of you an apology. I have made this recipe more than a dozen times since I've actively kept this blog up and not once have I posted it, despite it being the recipe I use for potluck events, treats for P and I, depression food (meaning, "I'm sad today so I will eat meatballs"), and really every other event I can think of. I never posted it because I always thought I had posted it already. I figured there was no way I hadn't posted one of my most loved comfort foods. But there it is - I hadn't posted it. So today I am doing so.

I started making this dish somewhere between 7th and 9th grade, and over the years it evolved from a much less flavourful, not-quite-cooked-through-rice thing to a more complicated, but far better staple dish. It has some exotic ingredients, but it's not necessary to keep them in there if you don't have them, don't like them, don't want them, or just find them too expensive. Anyway, I really hope you enjoy this!


24 ounces tomato sauce
15-ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 small can chopped olives
large pinch ground bay leaf, or 1 small bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic granules or one mashed clove roasted garlic
1/2 teaspoon each: dried thyme, ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon each: dried basil, salt
2 tablespoons dried onions, or dried chives (I couldn't find the chives, which is what I normally use)
pinch sugar
generous pinch truffle powder (optional)
1/4 - 1/2 cup truffle-infused vodka* (or just water or regular vodka)

Combine and simmer 1-2 hours.

*To make this, get some Oregon truffles (they're much, much cheaper) and a jug of vodka. Slice the truffles thinly and stuff inside the bottle (after you've already made yourself a drink, of course). Leave in a dark place for a few months to infuse. This stuff lasts FOREVER and can add a little truffle flavour to things when you don't want to buy the stupidly expensive fungi for other applications.


2 pounds ground beef (I always use the full-fat stuff)
1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked white rice
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
splash lemon juice
2 eggs

Mozzarella or other cheeses you prefer (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil and butter together. When the butter is melted, put in the onion and a little salt and let it cook over low heat until your house smells like hash browns (15-20 minutes). Put the onions in a huge bowl and add the rice. Mix together, then add salt, pepper, poppy seeds, garlic powder and lemon juice. Mix well and add meat, plus a little more salt and pepper. Mix well again, then add the eggs and once again, mix well. Using the remaining olive oil, oil the bottom of a 12X9 pan (you can use a smaller pan if you want and just smoosh the meatballs all together, which is what I normally do but today I wanted to use the big pan because it's pretty new so I'm still excited about it). Make little meat balls, just smaller than golf balls, and put them in the pan. Pour the sauce on top and bake for one hour, covered loosely in foil. Remove the foil and cover the top with cheese, then bake another 15 minutes or until the cheese is nicely browned. Serves around 8 people.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stewed Eggplant and Appaloosa Beans

I have really been on an eggplant kick lately, but today I wanted to have some beans also. Hope you enjoy!

1 globe eggplant, cut into 1" dice
1-ish teaspoon kosher salt
5 coffee filters
vegetable oil spray

1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 diced carrot
1 diced stalk celery
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed

1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups appaloosa beans
1/3 cup water

1 cup white rice
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups water

Arrange coffee filters on a plate and spray lightly with oil spray. Toss salt and eggplant then spread onto plate. Microwave 10 minutes. Set aside

Combine oil, onion and pomegranate molasses in a saucepan. Cook over low-ish heat until onions are soft (10-15 minutes). Add lime juice, garlic, carrot, celery and coriander, then cook until carrot and celery are soft. Add in crushed tomatoes, beans, eggplant and water, then simmer for 15 minutes while you make the rice.

Combine rice, tumeric, salt and water, then bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, then let rest 10 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Turkey Soup

I initially was planning to just make a quick stock, but life got in the way, so this became a slow cooking stock, then soup. It can easily be modified for any kind of fowl carcass you've got laying about, and for any size crock pot. I hope you enjoy!

1 turkey carcass, bones plus and attached meat/skin
water to cover
3 bay leaves
2 large slices dried galangal or ginger
4 whole dried lemons/limes, barely crushed
1/4 navel orange
1/2 cup each: celery, carrot, onion

any remaining meat/bones you have laying about from cooking the bird that didn't make its way to sandwiches
1 tablespoon salt

1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 cup sliced sun dried tomatoes (I don't buy mine in oil)
1 can sliced potatoes, drained
1 preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped

Put the all of the first group of ingredients in your crock pot with enough water to cover everything. Set to high heat, cover and go about your business. Come back before you go to bed and turn the crock pot down to low, then sleep. In the morning, go to school or work, then come back to the crock pot. Take off the lid and think, "Huh. That looks really delicious. Guess I should've just stuck the wings in yesterday. And maybe salted it." Grab a pair of tongs and remove the galangal slices, the dried lemons and the half orange, plus any of the more obvious bones. Then stick the second group of ingredients in, with a bit more water and go about your business (just leave it on low this time) because you're too busy with vectors and quiche and "when am I going to finish making those cookies". The next day, come by and turn the crock pot off, then let it cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate it to let the fat congeal on the top. Make sure you forget all about this for a day while you go about your business, then come to the fridge later for a snack and think, "Oh yeah! I was making soup!" This step is important. Take the fat off, then strain it, reserving the liquid, then pick through all the bits to remove bones, spices and bits of fruit or veggies that might be in there. Shred the meat and put it and the stock into a medium saucepan, and add in all of the last group of ingredients. Cook one more hour-ish, uncovered, then serve. I like this over white rice. Makes around 6 servings.

Asparagus and Bacon Quiche

We bought some lovely asparagus the other day, which ordinarily I would either saute or roast. I've really been craving a quiche, however, so I thought I'd make one really quickly. The lovely thing about quiche is that even though it seems fancy, it's quite easy to make (especially if you cheat and use prepared pie crust). This time, I am setting apart the base so you can see the general pattern for making a quiche: make the base, cook the fillings and add them to the pie shell, pour the base over and bake. Any filling can be used, but I generally feel all filling materials should be pre-cooked. If you prefer a stronger cheese in your quiche, substitute the one you prefer for the mozzarella. Sometimes I like to put a layer of cheese on top of the crust before I add in the fillings too. Either way, it's very flexible, and inexpensive to make a great meal for up to 8 people per pie. I hope you enjoy!

Quiche base:

1 prepared pie crust (I'm not convinced it matters whether you buy this or make it)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (or 1 large can evaporated milk)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste


1 bunch asparagus
3 pieces bacon
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper as needed

Preheat oven to 450F. Line a pie plate with crust and set aside. Steam the asparagus in an inch of water (approximately 3-5 minutes), then shock in ice water before cutting into bite sized pieces. Cut the bacon into bite sized pieces, then fry. Sweat the onion in the bacon fat until translucent, then add the garlic, salt and pepper and continue to cook until the onions are caramelised. Combine bacon, onion and garlic mixture with asparagus and spread evenly over pie shell.

Whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper, then stir in cheese. Pour over filling in pie shell. Bake at 450F for 10 minutes, then reduce to 325F and bake another 55 minutes (normally I don't cook quiche that long, but this one was quite moist so it needed longer). Remove quiche from oven and let rest 10-20 minutes before serving. Serves 8.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Brined Turkey

I like to have a turkey around the holidays, as well as one in the summer. I'm not really sure why I want one in the summer when it's already so hot outside, but I always do. I think from now on, since I'm currently only feeding two (as opposed to previously, when I never knew how many people would be sitting at my table on any given night), I'll probably just buy a small breast for myself and a couple legs for P. Which should give us a few days of turkey without getting tired of it. Anyway, this is the first time I've brined one. I looked at several recipes until I kind of got the gist of how brining works. This is what I wound up deciding on. Hope you enjoy!


10 bay leaves
1 1/4 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 large slices dried galangal
5 dried lemons/limes (omani)
2 tablespoons each: black peppercorns, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, coriander seeds
1 dried chile pod (I used chile arbol, but you should use whatever you have on hand)
4 litres water, divided

Combine all the spices and 2 litres of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add remaining water and simmer 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to come up to room temperature before refrigerating. Chill.

Turkey in Brine:

Once your turkey is thawed (or, whenever your brine is done cooling if you have a fresh turkey), wash the inside and outside of the turkey, removing and necks and bits that may be in there (I save the neck for stock but cook the rest for Francis*). Put it, breast side down in a 5-gallon bucket (some people recommend using those enormous Ziplock bags, but I'm using a bucket) or other large container. Pour in brine, and then continue to add ice water until the turkey is completely submerged. Cover or otherwise close your container. If you have room in your fridge, stuff it in there for approximately 1 hour per pound of turkey weight. If you don't have the ability to put it in your fridge (I don't), put the bucket/container in a cooler, and fill the cooler with ice. Half-way through the brining time (my turkey is a 16 pounder, so it'll be in there a while), turn the turkey over. Refill ice in cooler as needed.

Roasting Turkey:

For this time, I'm trying the Alton Brown method, but will repeat his instructions here for those of you who don't want to click the link.

"Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels."

Stuff the turkey with whatever you like. I'm a huge orange cut into eighths.

"Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F**. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving."

*For Francis, I cook the gizzard, heart and liver like this: In a small non-stick pan, fry lightly to sear the outside. Then add water to almost cover and 2-3 cubes of chicken collagen (you can skip this if you're not the type to save these random things) and simmer until the water is mostly gone. Serve on top of or mixed in with your normal puppy chow.

** Cook it longer than this. I promise you, it's really annoying to have to put it back in the oven once you started carving it because it's not cooked through. Really, really annoying. So annoying it makes me think that maybe I should just make turkeys the way I always have before. However, it was so moist and delicious I'll just cook it longer from now on, instead of taking it out at that time.