27 January 2013

Here, fishy fishy fishy

So, I'm kind of ambivalent about a lot of things at the moment.  I blame it on the winter, on the steady greyness that permeates everything.  However, it's nearly February and that means it's going to get brighter every day going forward.  

In an effort to eat my way out of apathy (should work, right? right?), I've been trying to incorporate more fish into my diet.  Gotta tell you that fish is not my most favourite thing, but I'm learning, and since I count shellfish in this total-fish-eaten tally, it's been pretty good really.  Oysters and lobster and mussels and shrimp - to me, those are the most delicious items the ocean has to offer.  But for diet-based doses of omega-3s, you have to go for the oily fish, so that means salmon once or twice a week.  I like wild Pacific salmon best, but you do you - I'm not going to recommend one ocean over the other.

This is a super easy recipe.  You may not even call it a recipe.  But it is tasty.

Mustard-Garlic Salmon 

Preheat oven to 425

2 tablespoons grainy mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
1-2 minced garlic cloves
Dried chili flakes, to taste (I like to take a half a dry chili pepper and whir it around in my spice grinder - which is actually a coffee grinder - I think they taste better when they don't sit around in flake form)
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard if you're really super keen on mustard

1 big salmon filet - like a side of salmon, if you will - skin on one side
Another 2 tablespoons olive oil

First, mix the mustard, the olive oil, the lemon, the chili, and the salt and pepper together to make a paste.  Set aside.

Next, you can line a baking pan with foil or just leave it foil-less.  Drizzle the rest of the olive oil onto the pan/foil where you're going to be placing the fish.  I like to paint it into a uniform oil glaze with a pastry brush, but the value of that is debatable.  Place the fish skin-side-down onto the pan.  Grab the mustard paste and spoon it out onto the salmon.  Then, take a pastry brush or whatever you have around and make sure the paste covers the entire fleshy surface of the salmon.  An even coating ensures a good end result.  

Throw the pan into the oven and let the fish cook for about 15 minutes.  Fish is finicky so I'm not going to really give a proper time for it.  You know it's done if you stick a fork in, rotate it, and the fish flakes readily.  Because I like a bit of texture, sometimes I put the broiler on for a couple of minutes at the end to make the coating slightly crisp.  

Serve with something green to maximise the benefits of the omega-3s - some sauteed garlic spinach, or asparagus or broccoli or whatever.  

20 January 2013

Apple Pie and America

It's at times like these that I think of this Conway Twitty song my grandparents used to play... it went "Hello, darling.  Nice to see you.  It's been a long time..." And yes, it's been a long time.  Things got in the way, as I suppose they are wont to do.  But the blog name was far too good for me to let go of, so I figured I'd come back and maybe just start posting somewhat randomly.

Today, I'm putting my recipe for apple pie out into the universe.  Reminded of it by my first trip to New York ever, which was last weekend, the recipe has received nothing but rave reviews since I debuted it last fall.  It's sort of an amalgam of a number of different apple pie recipes from t'internet, so apologies if this looks familiar to anyone.  But here goes.  If I may suggest an accompaniment, it would be either whipped cream with a little tiny bit of vanilla whipped in, or vanilla ice cream from Ontario's own Kawartha Dairy.

Apple Pie
(full ingredient list at the end of the recipe)

Get your stand mixer out - it makes pastry-making a joy, honestly.  I'm never going to use a food processor again for pastry.  Into that stand mixer, measure out:
2.5 cups flour (not self-raising, just regular old flour - i think if you wanted to use whole wheat, you could probably do .5 cups whole wheat to 2 cups all-purpose)
2.5 tablespoons sugar
Half a teaspoon of salt
Turn mixer on low (like speed setting one or two), and let those dry ingredients combine.  Then, take: 
1 cup of the best unsalted butter you can find, straight from the fridge, and cut it into half inch pieces
Piece by piece, while the stand mixer is still mixing, throw the butter into the mixer.  When I say piece by piece, I actually mean it.  You want the pastry to get a nice crumbly looking texture.  Once you've added each piece of butter, let it mix another 5 seconds, then take
1/2 cup ice water
And, very slowly, trickle the water into the bowl of the mixer.  This is where you need to be very careful as you only want the pastry to just stick together, no more, no less.  You are unlikely to need the full 1/2 cup.  The dough should not look sticky or tacky, if it does then you've got too much water in and you're going to have to add more flour or start all over again.
Turn the nice, just barely holding together dough out onto your counter and gather it into a ball.  Roll it about with your hands to make a nice smooth ball, then divide the ball in half with your hands.  Flatten the two halves with your hands into discs.  Wrap each disc up individually in saran, then stick them in the fridge to rest for about an hour (yes, this is necessary - pastry is finicky and needs time to just exist before you do anything with it).

So, while your pastry is chilling, in a big bowl you can combine:
6-7 Cortland or Northern Spy apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into thin-ish pieces
1-2 tablespoons cinnamon (whatever your taste is - I usually stay at about 1.5)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice      
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
4 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice or straight nutmeg
Stir everything together - the apples will look somewhat coated.  You're going to let this mixture rest as well - it's called macerating - so that the excess juice from the apples will mix together with the sugars and spices and then run off.  It takes about a half hour.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.   
Grab a strainer and place it over a pot.  Empty the apples from the bowl into the strainer and shake vigorously.  Lift the strainer and see how much apple-y, sugary liquid there is.  Shake it again just to get any more liquid, then you can empty the apples back into that first bowl.  Turn your stove burner on medium-high, and then boil the liquid down into a syrup - it takes about five minutes.  While it's boiling, mix about
2 tablespoons cornstarch
into the apples in the bowl.  Once you've got your syrup, mix that into the apples as well.

Flour your work surface and a rolling pin, and get a nice deep glass pie plate out - now's the time to grab 1 disc of the pastry from the fridge.  Put it onto the floury surface, and start rolling out.  You want to roll it into something approximating a circle, and it needs to be big enough to cover the bottom of that pie plate all the way up to the edges.  Place the rolled out dough into the pie plate - you've now got a bottom crust - and then empty the bowl of apples-cornstarch-syrup onto the bottom crust and even them out.  Re-flour your surface and your rolling pin, grab the other disc from the fridge, and roll that out too.  It needs to cover the top of the pie plate all the way out to the edge of the lip.  Place the rolled out dough on top of the apples.  Press the edges down using a finger to make a ruffled edge.  Cut some slits in the top crust to let the steam out as it bakes.  

Throw that pie into the oven for 45 minutes.  Check on it after about 25 minutes to make sure the edges aren't getting too brown - if they are, you can make a little ring out of tinfoil or parchment paper and cover the edges up with it.  At 45 minutes, remove from oven and let cool.  You should now have a beautiful pie to share and enjoy.          

Ingredient List:
2.5 cups flour
2.5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of cold butter
1/2 cup ice water

6 or 7 Cortland or Northern Spy apples
1-2 tablespoons cinnamon (whatever your taste is - I usually stay at about 1.5)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice      
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
4 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice or straight nutmeg
2 tablespoons cornstarch