Archive for September, 2010

Mussels are inexpensive, quick to make and delicious. While many recipes steam mussels in wine or a tomato sauce, I prefer to spice them up with preserved Chinese black beans. I usually make a recipe from Bonnie Stern’s Simply Heartsmart Cooking, but recently saw something similar in the October 2010 issue of Canadian Living. Jarred black bean sauces usually contain additives and preservatives that are off-limits for us, so I substitute preserved black beans. The container shown below cost $1.19 and the beans keep for years. To use, simply rehydrate in a little hot water. I buy mine in Chinatown.

These preserved black beans keep indefinitely

The dried beans; just add a little water to rehydrate

Instead of using water to steam the mussels, try wine or broth. I also added chopped red pepper for colour. Serve with crusty bread spread with hot-sauce spiked yogurt.

Rehydrated beans with ginger, garlic, peppers and parsley

Serve the steamed mussels with crusty bread


2 lbs fresh mussels

¼ cup water

1 tbsp Chinese black bean sauce or rehydrated fermented black beans

1 2-inch piece of gingerroot,

½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced (leave seed in or use whole pepper to increase heat)

¼ cup red pepper, chopped (optional)

4 cloves garlic, sliced

2 green onions, cut in 2-inch lengths

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or coriander


Scrub mussels and remove any beards. Discard any that do not close when tapped. In Dutch oven or large saucepan, combine mussels, water, black bean sauce, ginger, jalapeno pepper, red pepper, garlic and onions; stir to coat. Cover and bring to boil over medium-high heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until mussels open, about 10 minutes. Discard any that do not open. Remove from heat. Toss with coriander. Serves 2.

Adapted from the October 2010 issue of Canadian Living

Fall has definitely arrived. I’m missing the charcoal grill, but enjoying the return to the soups, stews and braises I cook  in the cooler weather. This new find from the October 2010 issue of Canadian Living is a one-pan meal that is ready in less than an hour. Chicken pieces are roasted with prunes, olives, garlic, oil, vinegar and lemon. I added hot pepper flakes to spice it up a little.

The chicken is tossed with olives, prunes and lemon wedges

The recipe suggests squeezing lemon juice into the pan drippings and using the result to sauce the chicken. I didn’t do this, in order to reduce the amount of fat per serving. The result was very tasty. I served the chicken with herb and vegetable couscous.

Everything is roasted in one pan and is ready in less than an hour

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, make sure the olives and prunes are all-natural. Many dried fruits contain sulfites, so read the label carefully.

Roast chicken with olives, prunes and vegetable couscous


1 chicken (about 3 lb., cut into 10 pieces)

¾ cup pitted prunes

½ cup pitted green olives

3 tbsp sherry or cider vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, smashed

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 lemon, quartered


In roasted pan, toss chicken pieces with prunes, olivs, vinegar, oil, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon.

Roast, skin side up, in 450-degree F oven, basting occasionally with pan drippings, until juices run clear when chicken is pierced, about 45 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter. Remove lemon and squeeze juice into drippings. Return lemon rinds to pan and whisk to combine. Pour over chicken. Serves 4.

Each serving, without the skin, has about 437 calories, 33 grams of protein, 24 grams total fat (5 grams saturated fat), 23 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fibre, 125 mg cholesterol, 694 mg sodium, 615 mg potassium. Regarding recommended daily intake, each serving provides 4% calcium, 16% iron, 6% Vitamin A, 13% Vitamin C and 4% folate.

From the October 2010 issue of Canadian Living

We love beets and this year Bill planted both the red and golden varieties. This recipe from Canadian Living’s Best Vegetables pairs this sweet and colourful vegetable with onions that have been slowly cooked in sugar and vinegar until they caramelize. The recipe suggests boiling the beets, but I prefer to wrap them in foil and bake them for an hour or so in a 400-degree oven until they are tender. Once they are cooked, cool them slightly and then rub them with a paper towel to remove the skins. You can refrigerate the cooked beets until ready to proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Cooked golden and red beets

Cook the onions slowly until they caramelize

Caramelized beets and onions

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, use a red wine vinegar with no sulfites added or with naturally occuring sulfites. I used Eden Organic brand.


6 large beets

4 tsp butter

3 onions, sliced

2 tbsp granulated sugar

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp water

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper


In large pot of boiling water, cook beets for about 40 minutes until tender (or bake, according to the directions above). Drain and let cool slightly. Rub skins off with a paper towel and cut the beets into sticks.

In a large non-stick skillet, melt butter over medium heat; cook onions, stirring often, for 7 to 10 minutes or until light golden. Sprinkle with sugar and vinegar; reduce heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes or until tender and golden.

Add beets to onions along with water, salt and pepper; heat over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until heated through. Serves 4.

From Canadian Living’s Best Vegetables

Stir-fries are a great way to get dinner on the table in a hurry. This favourite from the January 2003 issue of Cook’s Illustrated contains many useful tips on stir-frying.

Stir-fried pork, green beans and red peppers with gingery oyster sauce

First, it recommends using a large non-stick skillet instead of a wok. Second, it suggests partially freezing the pork and then cutting it into ¼-inch strips, which are then marinated in soy sauce and sherry. Third, it recommends stir-frying the pork in a very hot pan in batches, so the meat browns instead of steams.

Stir-fry the pork in batches so it browns instead of steams

The meat is removed and then the beans and peppers are stir-fried separately before everything is recombined in the pan and tossed with the sauce.

The pork, beans, peppers and sauce are quickly tossed together before serving

Once you have made the sauce and chopped the meat and vegetables, the entire dish cooks in less than 15 minutes. To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, use tamari instead of soy sauce and an all-natural chicken broth and rice vinegar (I use Imagine Organic Chicken Broth and Marukan Seasoned Rice Vinegar). I have never been able to find additive-free oyster sauce, so I make my own by combining 3 tablespoons of tamari sauce with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 3 teaspoons of cornstarch.


12 ounces pork tenderloin cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices; then cut the slices into ¼-inch strips

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp plus 1 tbsp dry sherry

1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 ½ tbsp oyster sauce

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 tsp rice vinegar

¼ tsp ground white pepper

1 tsp cornstarch

2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tsp)

2-inch piece of ginger, grated (about 2 tbsp)

3 tbsp peanut oil or vegetable oil

12 oz. green beans, cut on bias into 2-inch lengths

1 large red bell pepper (about 8 ounces), but into 3/4-inch squares

3 medium scallions, sliced thin on bias


Combine pork, soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons sherry in small bowl. Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon sherry, chicken broth, oyster sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, white pepper, and cornstarch in measuring cup. Combine garlic, ginger and 1 1/2 teaspoons peanut oil in small bowl.

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons peanut oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until smoking; add half of pork to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up clumps, until well-browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer pork to medium bowl. Repeat with additional 1 1/2 teaspoons peanut oil and remaining pork.

Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil to now-empty skillet; add green beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until spotty brown and tender-crisp, about 5 minutes; transfer to bowl with pork.

Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to skillet; add bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until spotty brown, about 2 minutes.

Clear center of skillet, then add garlic/ginger mixture to clearing; cook, mashing mixture with spoon, until fragrant, about 45 seconds, then stir mixture into peppers. Add pork and green beans; toss to combine. Whisk sauce to recombine, then add to skillet; cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and evenly distributed, about 30 seconds. Transfer to serving platter; sprinkle with scallions and serve. Serves 4.

From the January 2003 issue of Cook’s Illustrated

We have been home canning for years to preserve the bounty of the garden and to avoid the additives and preservatives found in most store-bought relishes and salsas. Here is our favourite (and Bill’s specialty) – Peppy Salsa from the 1994 Canadian Living Barbecue Cookbook. The original recipe is below, but Bill changes the mixture of peppers according to what’s in the garden and to make it much more fiery!

Salsa being cooked prior to canning

Salsa being ladled into sterilized jars

This salsa is the perfect accompaniment to corn chips


½ lb jalapeno peppers

8 cups coarsely chopped peeled tomatoes

3 cups chopped seeded Cubanelle, Anaheim or Sweet Banana peppers

2 cups chopped onions

2 cups cider vinegar

1 cup each chopped sweet red and yellow peppers

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (5.5 oz.) tomato paste

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tbsp salt

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp dried oregano

¼ cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)


Wearing rubber gloves, cut jalapeno peppers in half; discard ribs and seeds. Chop finely to make 1 cup. In large heavy nonaluminum saucepan, combine jalapenos, tomatoes, Cubanelle peppers, onions, vinegar, sweet peppers, garlic, tomato paste, sugar, salt, paprika and oregano. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, for one hour or until thickened. To test thickness, place 1 tbsp salsa on a plate and tilt plate; salsa should flow slowly in one stream. Add coriander and cook for five minutes.

Pour salsa into hot sterilized canning jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Seal with prepared lids and screw-on bands. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Remove from water and let stand; you will know the canning process has been successful if you hear the lids “pop” after several minutes. If any of the jars don’t seal properly, refrigerate the salsa and use within a month. Unopened canned salsa keeps indefinitely; refrigerate after opening.

From Canadian Living’s Best Barbecue Cookbook – 1994

A few years ago, the Food Network ran Jamie Oliver’s Jamie At Home series, which included an episode on his home-grown tomatoes. Because the shows are frequently repeated, I ended up seeing the tomato episode at least three times. Every time, I drooled over Jamie’s Tomato Consommé.  I bought the book, and when tomato season rolled around I made the consommé. It takes quite a while (not to mention fridge space) but the results are worth it. I omitted the slice of beet and the colour was fine. I also used a jelly straining bag instead of cheesecloth. So if you are looking for an elegant dish—and a way to use up your tomatoes—give this recipe a try.

Tomatoes draining

Tomato liquid

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, use freshly grated horseradish, as purchased horseradish frequently contains sulfites or sodium benzoate.

Finished Tomato Consomme


4 1/2 lbs tomatoes

½ cup vodka

2 tablespoons grated horseradish


Black pepper

1 tablespoon vinegar

½ cup fresh basil

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 slice beet, thick slice


Put everything except the beet into a food processor and run until slushy. You will probably want to split the tomatoes into 2 batches to avoid spillage. Place 4 layers of clean muslin cheesecloth in a deep bowl. Pour the tomato mixture into the cloth. Tie up the corners of the fabric. Add the slice of beet to the bowl to color the liquid. Hang the bag from a shelf in the refrigerator with the bowl underneath for 6-8 hours (or longer). Discard the beet. Serve in a pretty clear bowl with an ice cube to keep it very cold, a nice basil leaf, and a few drops of very good extra-virgin olive oil. Serves 8.

From Jamie at Home

Everyone has their own favourite potato salad recipe, and this one from the July 2002 issue of Gourmet is ours. It is simple and delicious. A few tips: Use large, thin-skinned boiling potatoes of equal size so they are cooked at the same time. Be sure to cook the potatoes through – a paring knife should easily pass through the centre of the largest potato. Drain the potatoes and peel them as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Keep them whole until you are finished peeling all of them. Then quickly cut them into cubes and toss them with the vinegar and salt while they are still hot. This permits the potatoes to soak up the salt and vingar. As you toss the potatoes, you will notice that their exterior softens; this is a good sign.

The potatoes soften when you toss them with the vinegar and salt

All you do after this is toss in the chopped celery, onion and eggs and mix in the mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Old-Fashioned Potato Salad


2 lb equal-size boiling potatoes

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chopped celery or green pepper

1/2 cup chopped white onion

3 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1 cup mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s regular)


Cover potatoes with salted cold water by 2 inches in a 3-quart saucepan and simmer uncovered until just tender, 15 to 30 minutes, depending on size of potatoes. Drain in a colander and cool slightly.

While potatoes are simmering, whisk together vinegar and salt in a large bowl until salt is dissolved. Make the hard-boiled eggs and chop the celery and onion.

When potatoes are just cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 1-inch pieces, add to vinegar mixture, and toss gently with a rubber spatula to combine. Let cool to room temperature, then add remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste and stir gently to combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled. 
Makes 6 servings.

From the June 2002 issue of Gourmet

I love shrimp cocktail, so when Canadian Living’s The Barbecue Collection described this recipe as “shrimp cocktail on the grill” I had to try it. The shrimp skewers were delicious, very quick to make, and you probably have all the ingredients in your freezer, fridge and pantry.

If you use bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them for at least 30 minutes before grilling. To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, use an all-natural chili sauce and hot pepper sauce, such as Heinz and Tabasco brands.


2 lbs. raw shrimp (21-30 per pound, or 16-20 per pound)

1/2 cup tomato-based chili sauce

1 tbsp packed brown sugar

2 tsp cider vinegar

1 tsp hot pepper sauce

3/4 tsp paprika

1 clove garlic, minced

Lemon wedges


Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails intact. Thread lengthwise onto skewers. Mix together chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, hot pepper sauce, paprika and garlic; brush half over shrimp. Grill shrimp over medium-high heat, turning once, for four minutes. Brush with remaining sauce and continue grilling, turning once, until shrimp are opaque and glazed. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves 8.

From Canadian Living’s The Barbecue Collection

Our tomatoes are ripening, which means it’s time for the simplest and most delicious salad – sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and topped with fresh herbs and cheese.

I love fresh basil and slices of bocconcini cheese on tomatoes; another great topper is goat cheese, slightly softened in the microwave. In the photos below, heirloom tomatoes are served with mixed greens and crumbled feta cheese.

To avoid additives and preservatives, be sure to use a balsamic vinegar labelled “no sulfites added” or “contains only naturally occurring sulfites”. As for the cheese, check the label to make sure it has no artificial ingredients added.

I wouldn’t have thought of doing a potato-cauliflower curry on the grill, but when I saw this recipe from Lucy Waverman in the May 14, 2010 Globe and Mail I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did, because it is the perfect accompaniment to the chicken.

I marinated the chicken overnight. When I was ready to cook, I made the marinade for the vegetables and pre-cooked the potates and cauliflower. The recipe suggested boiling the potatoes for 5 minutes and the cauliflower for 3, but I increased those times because I wanted the vegetables to be tender. The vegetables marinate for an hour, so place them in the marinade while you preheat the grill and cook the chicken. The recipe calls for small red potatoes but I used a mixture of red, white and purple.

Potatoes and cauliflower in marinade

Thread the vegetables onto skewers and quickly grill them while the chicken is resting.

Grilled potato cauliflower curry

Grilled Bombay chicken

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, use an all-natural curry paste, such as Thai Kitchen brand, and fresh lemon and lime juice.

Grilled Bombay Chicken


1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 tablespoons medium to hot curry paste

1 teaspoon honey

2 tablespoons lime juice

½ cup yogurt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 chicken breasts, skin on, bone in

Salt to taste


Combine ginger, garlic, curry paste, honey, lime juice, yogurt and vegetable oil in a bowl and whisk until uniform. Spoon marinade over the chicken and marinate for 1 hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat grill to medium-low.

Season chicken with salt and place chicken, skin side up, on grill. Grill for 20 minutes, turn chicken over and grill, skin side down, for 10 minutes. Turn over again and grill for another 5 minutes or until juices run clear. (Grilling time will depend on the thickness of the breasts.)

Remove chicken and let rest for 5 minutes. Place on a platter and garnish with lime wedges and cherry tomatoes. Serves 4.

Grilled Potato and Cauliflower Curry


1 pound (500 grams) small red potatoes

1 head cauliflower, cut into large florets


½ cup chopped onions

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped ginger

½ cup coarsely chopped mint leaves

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons vegetable oil


Place potatoes in a pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 5-10 minutes or until potatoes are crisp tender. Drain and return potatoes to pot to dry off over turned-off heat. Set aside.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add cauliflower florets and boil for 3-5 minutes or until crisp tender. Drain and refresh with cold water until florets are cold.

Combine onions, garlic, ginger, mint, cayenne, coriander, cumin, lemon juice and vegetable oil by hand or in a food processor. Toss with potatoes and cauliflower and let marinate for 1 hour.

Preheat grill to medium-low.

Thread potatoes and cauliflower onto skewers. Season with salt and grill for 6 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally, or until golden. Remove from skewers and toss together in a bowl. Garnish with mint. Serves 4 to 6.

Based on a recipe by Lucy Waverman in the May 14, 2010 issue of the Globe and Mail