Monday, 10 March 2014

Spring Risotto

I always wait for spring very impatiently. The harsh cold is really not my thing, and lately, I have been eying my winter coat and snow boots with such pure hatred that I wonder why they haven’t spontaneously combusted… I want to wear my cute shoes, my dresses and my thinner jackets, dammit! OK, rant over.

This craving for spring always ends up influencing my food choices. I start ordering salads at restaurants, just to see green stuff. I drink buckets of that green fruit smoothie that kinda looks like swamp water (or so my tattoo artist says). And of course, spring vegetables are suddenly my favorite veggies ever!

Truth be told, asparagus and artichokes have always been some of my favorite vegetables, in any season. They both have a subtle yet very flavorful taste, and they can be prepared so many ways, from the very simple to the very fancy. I had seen a soup recipe combining both in “Betty Goes Vegan” (not a book that I’d recommend, to be honest, unless you are a carnivore trying to switch to vegetarian, as there is barely a recipe in there that doesn’t include “vegan” cheese and meat substitute… I don’t get the point of a vegan cookbook that tries to include “meat“ and “cheese”, but maybe that’s just me…), but I was in the mood for something more filling than soup. So I kept the basic ingredient combination, but applied them to one of my favorite things ever: risotto!

Lemon highlights the flavor of both asparagus and artichokes without overwhelming them, and it has its own sunny taste that will brighten up an entire dish if properly dosed, so I just had to add it. As for goat’s cheese, well... when is goat’s cheese ever superfluous? It’s delicate creamy tang is perfect with those vegetables, and makes the risotto extra creamy and decadent!

Pick a bunch of thin asparagus, to make sure they will cook completely in the broth and rice; the thicker ones will be a bit too crunchy unless you par-boil them before adding them to the risotto. I used canned artichoke hearts, but if you have the fresh stuff handy, by all means, use it! And obviously, pick some creamy goat’s cheese with no crust. I’d use a plain one, and not those that already have fine herbs mixed in: you want to control your seasoning as much as possible!

4 cups vegetable broth
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/2 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup soft goat’s cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmagianno Reggiano
2 tablespoons butter

Bring the vegetable broth to a soft boil and keep on simmer. In a large pan, preheat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic until the onions have softened and the garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Add the rosemary, tarragon and lemon zest, and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the arborio rice to the pan along with the wine and the last 2 tablespoons of oil. Cook, stirring until every grain of rice is covered in oil and the wine has been completely absorbed.

Add the asparagus to the pan and mix well.

Add the broth to the pan, one ladleful at the time, and cook, stirring constantly, until the stock is absorbed by the rice.

Continue adding stock and cooking until there is one ladle of broth left. Add the artichokes, lemon juice and final ladleful of broth.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Once the broth is absorbed by the rice, remove from the heat, add the cheeses and the butter and stir until the risotto is nice and creamy.

I may get accused of tooting my own horn here, but I love it when a culinary experiment of mine wields such a delicious result! The combination of asparagus, artichoke hearts and lemon was amazing, and the uber-creaminess of the two kinds of cheese made this risotto the kind of dish that made me feel like licking my plate clean! The fresh flavors made it live up to its “springtime” name, while still being warm and filling enough to be the perfect bowl of comfort food, as I wait for the actual spring to arrive.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Portobello Pepper Steak Stew

January kicks my ass every year. There are many reasons for this sad state of affair: the nasty Canadian weather is chief among them. I want nothing more than to go out for long walks with a nice thermos of tea, but the minus 8000 degree situation means I end up cooped up inside, going stir crazy from watching one-too-many episodes of "Sherlock". I also developed a crush on Benedict Cumberbatch. I definitely need to get out a bit more...

Occupying the couch with the cat has the long-term effect of making me feel like a giant potato. Let me confess something: I have no idea how much I weight! My doctor is the only one who knows, as I don't even own scales, but when I start feeling less than comfortable in my clothes, I know that something needs to be done.

I got the yoga mat out, my copy of "Punk Rock Aerobics" (go ahead, laugh, get it out of your system... and then go fly a kite!) and a good playlist and I started my meager home-workouts again. I also dusted off my copy of "Appetite for Reduction" and flagged a few recipes. This book saves my life in this post-Holidays-winter-lethargy mess that is January.

I really love that book, because eating low-fat is not something I have a problem with. Bland food is what my issue is, and this book contains NO bland recipes. Ha! I've posted a few recipes from that book, including chickpea and zucchini stew, pasta con broccoli and pad thai salad. But I got inspired to try a new one!

I was in the mood for something filling and meaty, but not too heavy, so a vegan stew was just the thing. The rich and earthy flavor of portobello mushrooms is something I can't get enough of, but I decided to rework the original recipe a bit. Isa calls for seitan, something I can never seem to find, no matter how much I look for it in every food store I walk in, so I used extra-firm tofu, that I cooked sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, and a touch of paprika and oregano, to give it a more robust flavor that would go well with the veggies and the garlicky broth. I also upped the spiciness by being more liberal with the chili flakes. A lovely hot bite is very comforting when the cold is as intense as it has been in Montreal for the past few days...

The great thing about this recipe is that it's a one-pot stew: very little dishes to do at the end! It's also ready in less than an hour (if you don't include the time to press your tofu!).

2 teaspoons of olive oil
1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into strips
Freshly ground black pepper
A few pinches of paprika
1 red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1/4-inch strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1/4-inch strips
Sea salt
2 portobello caps, sliced into 1/4-inch strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat a large pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the tofu with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of paprika, and sauté in 1 teaspoon of the oil for about 5 minutes, until browned.

Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside.

Sauté the onion and pepper with a pinch of salt in the remaining oil until the peppers are slightly blackened, about 10 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, garlic, fennel seeds, thyme, remaining salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper and sauté for 3 more minute, until the mushrooms have released their moisture.

Add the red wine, and bring to a boil over higher heat. The liquid should reduce in about 3 minutes. In a measuring cup, mix the flour into the vegetable broth to dissolve into a slurry (start by adding the flour to 1/4 cup of broth, mix vigorously until think and dissolved, then add the remaining broth). Lower the heat and add the slurry to the pan. Mix well and let thicken for a minute.

Add the tofu back to the pan and let the stew thicken further, in about 5 minutes, it should be slightly thickened but smooth and luscious.

Taste for salt and seasoning and serve.

I served it with some baked potatoes (and I put sour cream on my potato... thus killing the vegan of the recipe. Sorry... kinda...) but rice would be a perfect bed for a few spoonfuls of this delight. You can even try to make a messy wrap with some tortillas!

This is a great winter recipe: filling, comforting, full of bold flavors and vitamin C! I LOVE freshly ground black pepper so I went crazy with the grinder, and was I ever right! The beautiful peppery kick really hit the spot on a cold winter evening. It reheats very well and makes a delicious lunch. You may want to double the recipe if you have company!!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Snow Storm Cookies

Oh, Canada, land of the perpetual snowstorm… I like snow, it’s very pretty when it falls and makes everything look like an iced gingerbread house. The old brownstone buildings in my neighborhood do!

However, when you get all but snowed in your apartment because 30 odd centimeters of the stuff decide to plop on your city almost overnight… yeah, not the most practical situation… But this massive snow storm turned into a source of inspiration: you see, I had this sudden craving for cookies, and when I realized that getting to the grocery store was going to be almost as epic as climbing the Everest, given the unplowed sidewalks, I thought to myself: “Hey! Lazy ass! Make your own damn cookies if you want them so badly!” Sometimes, a little self-inflicted kick to the backside is necessary to get me baking, but I never regret it!

These are not just snowstorm cookies because of the current weather: they also contain a sprinkling of delicious snow-colored ingredients that make cookies worth living for: white chocolate and coconut flakes.

I know, I know: white chocolate is not technically chocolate, it’s mostly sugar, with barely any cocoa in it (if at all). I don’t really care. Sometimes, a sugar fix hits the spot. The coconut is there both because it’s pretty and looks like snowflakes, but also because it gives that sweet hint of exotic flavor, just to remind us that the snow will eventually melt and we won’t have to dress like Siberian yak hunters to go to work.

I found the recipe on Tracey's Culinary Adventures.

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and then the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients, beating just until combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips and coconut until evenly distributed.

Using a small cookie scoop, portion the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.

Bake for about 9 minutes (rotating the baking sheets halfway through) or until the edges of the cookies are set (the centers may look underdone - don't overbake!).

Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool for a few minutes then remove the cookies to the wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with all of the dough.

Yeah, so I don't have a cookie scoop - I didn't even know that existed until I read the recipe (FYI, it's basically a small ice cream scoop. Doh!), so I just made little balls of dough with my hands and flattened them slightly before putting them on the baking sheet. Speaking of the dough, don't freak out if it doesn't look wet enough. Maybe it was because it mixed all my ingredients by hand instead of using my stand mixer (which still hasn't been unpacked), but it wasn't sticking together until I went in there and made each little dough ball by hand. Go figure. It's important to let the cookies cool off completely before eating them or putting them away. If you want them to be chewy, they have to still be soft in the middle when you take them out of the oven. Patience, young gluttons, patience! They are so worth the wait!

Chewy, sweet cookie comfort… Nothing like a good book, a steaming cup of tea and some delicious cookies on a cold December evening. And those were some good cookies! They had that perfect pale gold hue, just enough sweetness and that great moist texture... Irresistible!

This recipe makes about 20 cookies (the original recipe says 30, but I guess I like 'em big), so as you can imagine, I didn’t eat the whole batch. The Holidays are all about sharing, so I made a few happy camper: I brought a bunch to work, turned around for a minute and the Tupperware was empty... so I went back home and made another batch...

Have a very merry Xmas my darling readers! I hope you have a very good time and lots of very good food! xxxxx

Update: My colleague Nicole fell in love with this recipe and has been making a batch almost every week since the Holidays! However, she makes it with semi-sweet chocolate chips, instead of white chocolate chips. Of course, dark chocolate and coconut go very well together, and her cookies are the bomb! It makes me very happy when people enjoy my recipes, and it makes me especially happy in Nicole's case, as she often brings some cookies to work and gives me one! Miam!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Cheese O.D. Baked Mac n' Cheese

Hello everyone! As promised, I am back with a new recipe!

For those wondering, my move went very well and very smoothly. A huge thank you to this awesome moving crew: Véronique, Mike, Paul, Richard, Sam, Jonathan, Amanda, Karine and John! I could never have done it without you!! The place came together in a pinch and I already feel right at home in my new digs! If you want to see what it looks like, keep an eye on my Instagram (punkygabz), as I plan on putting up pics very soon! As you can see, the cat wasted no time getting comfortable:

Once my books were unpacked (15 boxes!), all I wanted to do was to break in my lovely new kitchen! I also promised my readers some delicious comfort food recipes, and I am nothing if not a woman of my word!

In the broad category of "comfort food", does anything hit the spot better than macaroni and cheese? Gooey melted cheese, pasta, gooey melted cheese, pasta... Sure, it's a sin against decent nutrition, but who cares? Sometimes, it's just was the Feelgood M.D. ordered!

When I got the urge for some of that decadent pasta bake, I absolutely had to made it from scratch: the color of Kraft Dinner is enough to make my stomach churn, never mind the taste and texture... But most mac and cheese recipes I have come across require you to prepare a tedious bechamel: I didn't want to spend time making that (no to mention the extra pot and pan cleaning... ugh), I just wanted to stuff my face with cheese until I had to roll out of my chair.

Thank goodness, Nadia G's recipe was exactly what I was looking for: just cheese! I took the liberty of adding a hint of garlic (come on, Nadia! What kind of Italian are you!) and a bit of nutmeg, which tends to elevate dairy-based dishes to a whole other level of "OMG-this-is-crack" (my gratin dauphinois, for example).

Fontina cheese might be something you've never tried before: it's a nutty, semi-soft Italian cheese. The real deal is quite pungent, but the imported stuff tends to be a lot milder. If you can't find it, or don't like it, emmental or mozzarella are great substitutes. You could even use some Parmiggiano-Reggiano if you prefer sharp-tasting cheeses. As long as it's a cheese that melts well, you're fine.

1 package dry macaroni or fusilli pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1 pinch grated nutmeg
1 cup aged Cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Swiss or Gruyere cheese, grated
1 cup Fontina (or emmental or mozzarella) cheese, grated
Sea salt and ground pepper
A handful of bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil pasta in salted water until half cook, 6 to 7 minutes. Drain, and set aside. Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, the onions and garlic. Sauté until soften, about 8 minutes.

Add the milk, bay leaf and nutmeg. Bring mixture to a slow boil, then turn the heat to medium-low.

Throw in the cheeses and some freshly cracked pepper. Stir until melted, then taste; adjust seasoning.

Remove the bay leaf. Grease a baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the pasta to the sauce; mix to coat every noodle. Pour in the baking dish and sprinkle liberally with bread crumbs.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

I'm cheese-crazy, so I grated extra Swiss cheese and extra mozzarella on top of my pasta before sprinkling my bread crumbs. Sue me.And trust me, it was as amazing as it sounds. You should have seen my best friend and I stuff our faces as if our lives depended on it...

I am familiar with the tradition of adding cocktail sausages to a batch of mac and cheese. But after an amazing dinner at Diablos BBQ, I strongly suggest using chopped chorizo instead, especially if you like a little spicy kick. I mean, if you are going to put yourself in a cheese and pasta induced coma, why not add some spicy sausages? Cut some chorizo into little bite-sized pieces until you have about 1/2 cup and throw in the sauce along with the pasta (remember to get rid of the thin skin from around the chorizo before adding it to the sauce).

If you'd rather counter the guilt of stuffing your face with all that cheese with some veggies, broccoli and/or cauliflower florets and a small can of diced tomatoes (drained!) will make it a somewhat healthier pasta bake.

Grab a fork, a glass of dry white wine and devour a big bowl of this little cheesy sin while watching something equally cheesy!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Don't Bury Me, I'm Still Not Dead Yet!!

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very sorry I haven’t posted anything in such a long time, and this little note is my mea culpa, and it’s also to reassure you that I have not gone away permanently, but that circumstances made it necessary for me to take a wee break from my blogging.

Unfortunately, the Punk Housewife is now single, which makes this blog’s title a bit of misnomer… but I like it, so I won’t change it! No need of a partner to be a housewife if you like to take care of your home and cook yummy food! However, as you can imagine, this recent change in my circumstances has made me rather busy with terribly mundane things like finding a new apartment, organizing my move and all the headaches that come with such an operation. This meant a lot less time for experimenting with new recipes and sharing them with you guys. I miss it terribly, but my head is so full of stuff like packing, address change notifications and IKEA trips that I just have no energy for the blog at the moment.

For the readers who are hungry for new recipes, I will be back in action as soon as possible, you have my word! I move at the beginning of December: give me time to unpack and get over a bit of the Holiday madness, and you’ll find lots of delicious comfort food recipes popping up! The site will also undergo a little revamping before the spring, so stay tuned for a new look, new pictures and mouthwatering new recipes!

I am really blessed with a bunch of truly wonderful, supportive, helpful and sweet friends, and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for the drinks, hugs, rides, hot meals and millions of other little ways in which they have shown their support in this rough patch I am going through: Véro, Maude, JD, Steeve, Alex, Paul, Mike, Amanda, Samuel, Patrick, André, Sophie, Gil, Phil and all the ones I am forgetting at the moment. You guys are sweethearts, and I wouldn’t have made it without you.  I’ll bake you all a big pile of gratitude cupcakes as soon as my new kitchen is set up!

I also want to thank my readers for their patience and loyalty. I write this blog because I love to cook and I love to share the recipes with you all: I believe in home cooking as a fun, economic and relaxing way to spend one's time, and I will never stop making a mess in my kitchen, but it always makes me so happy to get your feedback and hear about the recipes you found on my blog and enjoyed in your own kitchens. I’ll keep it up, so keep on reading and cooking!

Lots of love, and see you soon!


Monday, 30 September 2013

Garlic Lemon Shrimp Pasta

These are really the last few nice days of the year... Even if there is great stuff about the fall (like my birthday, scarves, leather jackets and Doc Martens being tolerable again, etc.), I still resent the cold. What can I say, I am happy in the summer, even the really weird ones like the one we've had this year. It was rather rainy, and besides that unbearable heat wave in early July, it's been pretty chilly... but it was summer!

Oh well, all good things come to an end, I suppose. But it's not because the days are shorter and less sunny that I can't enjoy a little sunshine on my plate!

My boyfriend brought home a shape of pasta I had never seen before: cute little curly cues!

I decided I would use them along with a classic summer-y combo of ingredients: garlic, lemon and shrimps. I've made a gorgeous risotto with those glorious flavors once, and it was little plate of sunshine. Exactly what I needed to cheer me up from looking at the weather forecast...

1 package dry pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound medium or shrimps, peeled and deveined
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan, grated (optional)
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional)
Lemon wedges, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions, or until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp in a single layer.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. After 2 minutes, turn the shrimps over, add the remaining tablespoon of oil, the garlic, and red pepper flakes.

Stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lemon zest and white wine to the shrimp. Stir to reduce the wine slightly. Stir in the lemon juice.

Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the shrimps, along with the Parmesan and pine nuts. Toss well to mix everything together.

Serve with extra lemon wedges, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Just like my risotto, this dish tasted just like a summer evening by the beach should: briny, lemony and garlicky. I have a feeling I will keep this little recipe handy every time the weather will get grey, rainy and generally miserable. It will be the perfect way to cheer up when the sun won't show it's face through autumn clouds!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Ultimate Gingerbread Cupcakes

I am usually the person making cupcakes for every imaginable occasion. Let's face it, few occasions are cupcake-inappropriate. Birthdays, holidays, PMS, bachelor party, thank-you-awesome-tattoo-artist-present... And since I love baking, there is always butter, eggs and various sprinkles all over my kitchen.

So you can imagine how refreshing is it when someone bakes me cupcakes!! My friend JD, photographer extraordinaire and raging geek, is also a very good cook (sorry ladies, he's married!) and he knows how much I love ginger. So when he couldn't make it to my birthday dinner, he made it up to me by whipping up a beautiful batch of cupcakes that shall henceforth be known as the ultimate gingerbread cupcakes.

I can't tell you how excited I was when he dropped those off at my place! We had dinner, opened a bottle of bubbles and enjoyed those little ginger bombs watching David Fincher movies. What? It was my birthday!!!

JD is such a sweetheart that he even shared his recipe with me so that other people could enjoy those wonderful cupcakes: fellow ginger-addicts, rejoice!

Gingerbread cupcakes (24 cupcakes):
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/3 cup molasses
1 cup hot water

Line two cupcake pans with paper liners and preheat the oven to 350. In a small/medium sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Carefully whisk them together. In another medium sized bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine oil, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Mix well. Add eggs and mix until incorporated. Next, add the molasses and mix well. Add half of the dry ingredients and half of the hot water to the sugar mixture and mix until incorporated. Repeat with the second half of the dry ingredients and hot water. Transfer the batter to the cupcake pans and fill each liner about 2/3 full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Maple cream cheese icing:
1 8oz package of cream cheese
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter, room temperature
2 tbsp maple syrup
4 cups powdered sugar

In a medium sized bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and cream cheese on medium high speed until smooth and creamy. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mix until incorporated, and scrape the bowl after each addition. Add the maple syrup and mix well. You can test it at this point and decide if you want more maple syrup or not. Add more powdered sugar and mix, until the icing is the desired consistency.

Ginger syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
a few pieces of fresh ginger, peeled

Put the ingredients in a sauce pan, bring to a light simmer and let simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let cool overnight. Remove the pieces of ginger.

When the cupcakes have cooled, frost with the maple syrup cream cheese icing and drizzle the ginger syrup on top. Top each cupcake with a piece of candied ginger.

And voila! Ultimate gingerbread cupcakes!

The cakes were wonderful, moist and just spicy enough, and the very sweet and rich icing is perfectly balanced by the tangy ginger syrup. It took a lot of self-control not to eat the entire batch in one sitting, but I guess I am getting a bit wiser as I get older (not!) and I made the cupcakes last all weekend.

Thank you JD, for the wonderful birthday cupcakes! And a big thank you to the wonderful friends who celebrated with me Saturday night! You guys are the best, and I am so lucky to have you in my life! xxxxx